Preventing Sleep Deprivation for the First Day of School
First day jitters and back to school often go hand in hand.
The first day can initiate a cycle of poor sleep and problematic behaviors that may be difficult to break.
KSTP spoke with Dr. Conrad Iber, who is the Medical Director of Fairview Sleep Program. Iber has spent a decade studying sleep habits in teens. He says kids lose an average of 90 minutes of sleep on the first day of school - and that barely improves throughout the year.
"The best way to know how much sleep you need, is how much sleep you get on the average when you're on vacation. Not in a structured situation."
Iber says even getting an hour less than what your body needs can contribute to a list of side effects in developing minds including weight gain, risk of car accidents and even thoughts of suicide.
Iber suggests that students have a pretty defined sleep schedule, and a curfew on electronics.
Below are some suggestions to breaking the cycle before it begins. Also, WebMD has a list of signs sleep-deprived children might show:
Why Children Lose Sleep
- Late summertime bedtimes collide with early school start times; so kids start the new school year being sleep-deprived.
- Each day they lose more sleep, building up a "sleep debt" that, like all debts, must be paid-off.
- Late weekend sleeping actually perpetuates the whole dysfunctional sleep pattern. It is actually a big red flag that your child is not getting enough sleep.
- Interestingly, a study in which school start times were moved from 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., resulted in children getting an hour more sleep each night and improved attendance.
- Late-night-type, rebellious adolescents are predisposed to this pattern and often complain that it is very hard to fall asleep, easier to fall asleep if bedtimes are later, hard to wake in the morning, late to school and sleep late on weekends.
Does Your Child Have Sleeping Problems?
- Children rarely complain about sleep problems. A study of adolescents showed that very few sought help for their sleep, even though some considered their problems to be very severe. Another found that almost 90 percent of adolescents say that they need more sleep, but how many parents have heard their child say, "You know, I think I am going to go to bed early tonight."
- Adolescent sleepiness is so prevalent that it almost seems normal. Though bedtimes get later and later, the biological need for sleep in adolescents does not decrease with age.
- Parents may overestimate the amount of sleep their child gets, because we may be unaware of when our child actually falls asleep, as well as night awakenings. Research has shown that medical conditions may cause or contribute to sleep problems even when overt medical symptoms seem well controlled.
For example, asymptomatic children with asthma and gastroesophageal reflux may have poor sleep and daytime fatigue. Allergies may cause respiratory distress when sleeping. In one study, almost a third of the children in elementary school reported significant body pains during the night, of which parents were largely unaware.
- Enlarged tonsils can cause intermittent breathing problems by physically blocking the airway. One study showed an increase in grades in children with sleep disturbed breathing after tonsillectomies.
- Sleep deprivation may present itself in many ways other than daytime sleepiness - inattention, poor concentration, moodiness, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance and social skills are a few. Interestingly, poor sleepers were found not to be consistently more tired than good sleepers, and they were actually least tired in the evenings, when most good sleepers were tired.
How to Teach Good Sleep Habits
- Establish sleep-healthy bedtimes, bedtime routines, habits, and diets. If late bedtimes are an issue, try ticking back bedtimes in 15 minute increments every night or other night until you get to a bedtime where your child wakes up easily and refreshed.
- Identify and reduce as much daytime stress as possible.
- Limit TV and other "screen time" (computers, video games), especially at bedtime, and do not put a TV in your child's bedroom. Children with a TV in their room tend to go to bed later and get less sleep than those without. Those kids who get less sleep are more likely to spend two or more hours watching TV.