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The Kid’s Doctor: How to set up back-to-school bedtime routines

  • Author: Sue Hubbard, M.D.,, Premium Health News Service
  • Updated: July 29, 2019
  • Published July 29, 2019

Now that kids are having to get up early (often before the sun comes up), going to bed on time makes everyone in the house wake up in a better frame of mind and mood for the day ahead.

Bedtime battles are typical for a toddler who has learned to ask for "one more book," or for the elementary school child who swears "they are not tired" but who falls asleep during bath time. But who knew there would be even more battles with teens and their electronics?

Numerous studies have shown that electronics disrupt sleep. But, trying to convince your adolescent son or daughter that they need more sleep is a daily struggle. While the studies on sleep recommend that teens get between eight to nine hours of sleep, most teens are not even close to that! Ninety percent report less than nine hours.

Teens keep all sorts of crazy hours during the summer, and many get the majority of their sleep during what we would consider to be "daytime" hours; they go to bed at 2-3 a.m. and sleep past noon. So, the minute that school resumes after summer vacation they already have sleep issues trying to "readjust" their biological clocks. Throw in the use of electronics right before bed, and you have the perfect storm for sleep deprivation and daytime fatigue.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that "adequate sleep duration on a regular basis leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life and mental and physical health." There isn't a parent around who doesn't want happy, rested, studious and healthy kids of all ages. If you throw in less moodiness for teens who get more sleep, most parents would sign their teens up on the spot.

Why do we all need to disconnect from electronics in order to have better sleep? That blue light from the electronic screen works against sleep. It signals the brain to suppress melatonin secretion, which is the hormone that makes us get sleepy at the end of the day. The light from the screen also confuses the brain of it being daytime and increases alertness, which may delay sleep even after turning off the screen.

Start the school year with the family rule, parents included, that all screens (phones, tablets and computers) will be off and docked outside of the bedroom at least 30-60 minutes prior to bedtime. While your teen may insist that they won't use the phone, it is often too tempting for them to not "cheat" once you, the parent, are in your own room and asleep.

While this may initially be hard to enforce, once it is the family routine it becomes less of a battle. Everyone will have an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep, and maybe get a few more hours of “shut eye.”