With back-to-school season here, parents may experience difficulties transitioning their children to an earlier sleep schedule. Kenneth C. Sassower, MD, of MassGeneral Hospital for Children's Pediatric Neurology and the Division of Sleep Medicine, offers the following suggestions for parents to help their child adjust.
• If a child is used to going to sleep later during the summer months, encourage him or her to go to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier every few nights until a more desired sleep time is achieved. Attempting to advance the sleep schedule more rapidly may simply result in a child who is wide-eyed and frustrated by not being able to go to sleep. Parents should try to maintain this early sleep schedule during the weekends as well.
• During this transition from summer vacation to the fall school schedule, parents should help their child avoid any stimulants and drinks such as soda, chocolate or high-energy sports drinks that contain caffeine. In addition, parents should avoid giving over-the-counter sleep remedies, as they may just make the child excessively sleepy in school.
• If the sleep schedule has not significantly improved after a couple of weeks, parents should contact their pediatrician for further advice and management suggestions.
"Better sleep may make for a better student and for an overall better school experience," says Sassower.