Making the Back-to-School Transition Easier on Your Family
Kids who follow a traditional school year with summers off typically get into a laid-back routine that they must then adjust once the new school year arrives. Mornings without alarm clocks, afternoon camps, sports, swimming pools, playgrounds with friends, long evening walks, and no set schedules. These things all are associated with the relaxed vibe of summer vacation.
Summers always seem too short. Before you know it, and much to the kids’ dismay, it’s already time to shop for new school supplies and head back to the classroom. The sun goes down a minute or two earlier each night, and suddenly autumn has arrived. It can be difficult for families, adults included, to face summer’s end. Teens, especially, tend to have a harder time getting back into the school groove, and many of the problems they face are caused by not getting enough sleep.
That’s why it’s a good idea to ease into a new sleep routine, earlier rather than later, to avoid adjustment problems and encourage a smooth transition. The most important factor is getting enough hours of sleep (i.e. quantity). Your second concern is how to maximize the quality of those hours by establishing healthy habits.
Regardless of the season, everyone, adults included, needs a certain amount of sleep. The challenge is how to eliminate life’s distractions and focus on maintaining a healthy sleep routine. Lack of good sleep can lead to fatigue during the day, irritability, and even weight gain.
How many hours of sleep are needed by age?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following guidelines:
School-age kids, including preteens (age 6-13) need 9-11 hours.
Teens (age 14-17) need 8-10 hours.
Young adults (age 18-25) need 7-9 hours.
Helping Your Preteen or Teen Adjust to a New School Schedule
School schedules can vary drastically from one school to the next. When students move from lower to upper schools, their school day usually starts earlier, by as much as half an hour. Melatonin (the hormone regulating the sleep-wake cycle) is believed to kick in at around 11 pm for teens, and they have a harder time waking in the morning. So what can you do about it?
Here are some suggestions for helping your teen sleep better. They apply to anyone trying to improve the quality of their sleep.
- Minimize light and noise. Consider soft music, white noise, or nothing at all. You can block light with dark curtains.
- Avoid caffeine throughout the day and especially before bed. This includes coffee, soft drinks, and chocolate.
- Exercise regularly. Doing so elevates your mood and decreases stress.
- Choose a healthy diet. Young bodies need nutrients, which they use to grow and repair themselves while sleeping.
- Don’t eat too close to bedtime. Trying to digest food will keep your body working, not relaxing.
- Keep electronic devices out of everyone’s beds. Although this can be hard to accomplish with teens attached to their phones, stick to your guns and set a firm “curfew” for them to put devices away for the night.
- Try soft music, not TV, to help kids relax.
- Go to bed earlier. Start with 15-minute increments, rather than making a huge change in a short time.
- Encourage your teen to nap, 10-30 minutes at the most, for greater alertness and productivity.
Physicians have recommended that schools start later in the morning to allow teens to catch up on the sleep they need. Later start times could encourage better health every day and less oversleeping on the weekends. Until that time comes, you can follow the guidelines given here.
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