Back to school: Adjusting sleep schedules for students

Circadian clock takes two weeks to adjust

INDIANAPOLIS - The back-to-school season is in full swing and experts have advice for parents to make sure their children are well-rested enough to perform their best at school.

Many students’ sleep schedules shift during the summer.

"Bedtime has slowly gotten later and later. Even the 4-year-old will tell me, 'The sun is still up, it's not time to sleep. It's daytime still!'” mother Amanda Bell said. “And I keep reminding them that school starts again next week and we still have some work to do."

Pediatric sleep expert Dr. Leyla Akanli, with Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, said it takes about two weeks for people to adjust their circadian clocks. She said, ideally, the adjustment should be made little by little.

"Start setting the bedtime maybe 10 or 15 minutes earlier each night," Akanli said.

She suggested to create a consistent, relaxing bedtime routine, like reading a short book before climbing into bed and avoiding chocolate and caffeine.

It's well-documented that not getting enough rest can affect a child's ability to learn.

Experts and parents agree that a lack of sleep can lead to behavioral changes, inattention or grumpy children.

Bell said the first few days of school are always tough on her kids. She said they are always exhausted just from the change of pace.

Experts said the average child needs between 10 and 12 hours of sleep every night.

Experts also warned parents against giving melatonin to their children because it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and long-term side effects are unknown.

Parents should talk to a doctor if their child is not getting enough quality sleep.

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