Don't break your child's sleep regimen during the summer


Sunday, June 24, 2018

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The days have definitely become longer and school summer break is right around the corner. As the daylight hours lengthen, many parents become relaxed and a consistent sleep schedule for kids often get thrown out. In fact, sleep is usually one of the most disrupted routines over the summer break.

However, it is critical to instill good sleep habits even during the long summer break. Sleep is essential to good health as well as to academic achievement. Every living creature requires sleep. It is invaluable to brain development and sleep regularity helps to achieve positive development.

The United States National Sleep Foundation recommends that young people get the following hours of sleep:

Ages 3-5: 10-13 hours

Ages 6-13: 9-11 hours

Ages 14-17: 8-10 hours

Bear in mind that these guidelines do not take a break over the summer.

The recommendation is startling, however, as most, if not all young people are not getting this amount of sleep. This also shows that as children mature into and through adolescence, their sleep requirement does not decline substantially as we are wont to believe.

The fact is that our kids are tired due to hectic schedules — school, extra-curricular activities and homework. Sleep is often the easiest thing to sacrifice in order to accomplish the multitude of tasks. Additionally, they see parents doing the same thing. Insufficient sleep can put the body in a chronic state of stress and will affect the body's cognitive, metabolic, hormonal and physical needs. Lack of sleep has even been linked to obesity, anxiety and depression.

Circadian rhythms, or the sleep-wake cycle, is a natural cycle regulated by light and dark and generated by a region in the brain. This rhythm takes time to develop, which explains the irregular sleep schedule of newborns. Circadian rhythm is sometimes referred to as the body's biological clock. It is sensitive to light. When it is dark, the body secretes the hormone melatonin which prompts the body to fall asleep. Studies show that bright light in the evening hours can inhibit melatonin secretion.

Numerous studies have shown that sleep loss during the week cannot be effectively recouped by sleeping in on the weekends. The same applies for the summer break. Getting extra sleep over the summer does not make up for insufficient sleep during the school year. Kids thrive on routine, and a sleep routine close to that when school is in session will make the transition easier.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Sleep Routine over Summer

1. Consistency

While it is okay to push bedtime and wake up time by an hour, try not to shift the schedule too much. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule will make it easier for the transition when it is back-to-school time. There may be exceptions to this such as special events.

2. Stick to a routine

Doing the same things right before bedtime creates a habit. For example, taking a shower, brushing teeth or reading a book can signal to your body that it is preparing for sleep.

3. Continue to limit the total daily caffeine intake. No caffeine in any form five hours prior to bedtime.

4. Keep bedrooms dark and comfortable at bedtime.

5. Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime. These devices emit bright light which could affect sleep. If you are reading from a device, try using blue light blocking glasses. Blue light is light that mimics the wavelength of sunlight, which inhibits melatonin production.

6. Avoid eating large meals right before bedtime.

7. The bed should only be used for sleeping and not for listening to music, playing video games, watching television or doing schoolwork.

8. Incorporate exercise into the daily routine. This could include swimming, jogging, tennis, football, dancing, etc.

9. See a doctor if your child is excessively sleepy during the day or is having difficulty falling asleep.

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