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Back-to-school Sleep

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: Summertime and the living is easy. And for many families that means the lights go out later at night and that jarring alarm goes off later in the morning.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: Everyone's outside during the summer in the evening, so they're staying up later than they usually are. You're staying up later in the night. You're sleeping in later in the morning, children are going to camp or teenagers are staying up to midnight, 1 am and sleeping in to 10 or 11, because they don't have to get up for school.

Parents may not have to get their kids up in the morning, so they may be able to sleep a little bit later, because they don't have to do the whole get ready for school, make the lunches, get them out the door.

ANNOUNCER: And then just when you get used to the long sun-drenched days and sandcastle building, the dog days of summer are over, and then school's in session.

As any parent knows, settling back into the fall routine is easier said than done.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: When we think about going back to school, we think about the effect on children and teenagers in terms of getting them back on a schedule. However, what we forget is that parents need to also make the shift and it's going to really affect their sleep schedule, too. It really relies on the parents to get the kids up for school and get them out the door. And so that can be very stressful for parents and affect their sleep at night.

ANNOUNCER: Back to school also means the family goes into high gear, shopping for clothes and school supplies, juggling after school activities, facing new academic hurdles. No wonder there's a healthy dose of apprehension.

DANIEL LEWIN, PhD: A very anxious child may start anticipating the return to school two weeks ahead of time. Start to get nervous, start to get over-activated. And nighttime, lying in bed at night, may be one of the key times that that child will ruminate about "What is school going to be like? Will I have as many friends? Will my teacher be nice?"

I think parents will probably feel some of the stress that their children feel around the transition back to school.

ANNOUNCER: Both a new schedule and all the excitement can put a damper on a good night's sleep for one and all.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: If your child's not sleeping, you're not going to be sleeping. But parents, too, are going to be going through an adjustment time. They're trying to shift their internal clock back. It may be difficult for them to fall asleep at an earlier time in the evening, they may be tired in the morning, they may not be getting as much sleep as if they were on a summer schedule.

ANNOUNCER: Not getting a good night's rest at this crucial time can have an impact.

DANIEL LEWIN, PhD: Anyone who's not achieving an adequate amount of sleep at night will have more trouble paying attention, more trouble organizing themselves, will generally be less productive and will potentially be at much greater risk of injury.

ANNOUNCER: But sleep problems are not inevitable if you plan ahead. Experts say it's best to ease into the transition period.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: What you want to do with children, with parents, is to start getting them on a school schedule at least a week or two in advance. So don't take that trip to Europe that you're going to come back the day before school starts.

ANNOUNCER: Still the cornerstone for getting back into a workable bedtime schedule is making a plan, and sticking to it.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: A bedtime routine is as important for a 2-year-old as it is for a 12-year-old as important as it is for a 35-year-old. You want to have a routine that's relaxing, two to three activities that you do before you fall asleep. National Sleep Foundation poll found that children who were read to or read right before bed slept better and got more sleep.

ANNOUNCER: Making the environment conducive for sleep and practicing good bedtime behaviors are important for everyone. Adults too. That means cutting out caffeine and alcohol before bedtime and reserving the bed for sleep and not for paying bills. But you may still have problems sleeping

JODI MINDELL, PhD: Approximately 25 to 30 percent of adults have some type of sleep problem. And it may get exacerbated at times of change, such as back to school times. Typical problems that adults have -- insomnia is a number one problem, difficulties falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep.

ANNOUNCER: If you continue having trouble with sleep, speak to your doctor. A sleep aid may help.

JODI MINDELL, PhD: For the benzodiazepines, one of the biggest problems has been finding a dose that helps you during the night but doesn't leave you feeling groggy and sort of hungover-feeling in the morning. And one of the benefits of the newer medications is that they affect a much narrower area in our brain and, therefore, you typically do not have any of those effects of being groggy in the morning, as long as you take it enough hours before you wake up in the morning.

ANNOUNCER: Fall is a time of change and in the end it's parents who have to set a good example to get everyone back on a track for a productive and restful new term.

DANIEL LEWIN, PhD: Modeling optimal sleep behavior can start with the parents. So having parents emphasize the importance of sleep, how good it is, how important it is for adequate daytime functioning to be happy and healthy is probably the first step.

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