Tips and Tricks
Tips and Tricks

Back to School. Back to Sleep.

Poor sleep habits are a “strong predictor of academic problems,” according to research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep affects concentration, memory, and the overall ability to learn.


While every parent is working for the weekend, children, teens, and young adults everywhere countdown the days until summer break – three glorious months of freedom from school, teachers, and, of course, homework. Summer break is a time to let loose, play video games, lounge on the beach, stay up late, and sleep in. However, when September rolls back around this can cause some problems. It is often hard to get back into a normal routine, especially when it comes to sleep.

The Importance of Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), children require anywhere from eight to 13 hours of sleep, depending on their age.

  • Preschoolers (3 – 5 years old): 10 to 13 hours
  • Elementary to Middle Schoolers (6 – 13 years old): 9 to 11 hours
  • High Schoolers (14 – 17 years old): 8 to 10 hours
  • College Students (18+): 7-9 hours

“Well-rested students perform better academically and are healthier physically and psychologically,” say researchers Roxanne Prichard, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Conversely, poor sleep habits are a “strong predictor of academic problems,” according to research from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep affects concentration, memory, and the overall ability to learn.

The Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep 💤

Make Time for Sleep

  • Children and Teens: When they are still living at home, parents have much more control over their children’s sleep schedules. It is important to emphasize the benefits of a good night’s sleep and develop a routine. Washington State University Professor Barb Richardson has studied the sleep patterns of children and recommends getting back on a school sleep schedule as early as possible. The best way to do this is to slowly ease them back into a routine – 15 minutes earlier each night until they are back on track.
  • College Students: According to the University of Michigan’s Campus Mind Works, “college students are one of the most sleep-deprived populations,” and Brown University claims that 73% of college students report sleep problems. “There’s a weird pride in certain students when they pull all nighters,” says Kendra Knudsen, a coordinator with the UCLA Mind Well initiative. “They need to re-prioritize, if they don’t have time for sleep, looking at their schedule and seeing what is really important.” Better time management goes a long way. Plan out the week and make sure there is allotted time to study, workout, have fun, and, of course, sleep. This will not only help ensure adequate sleep, but it should also minimize last-second cramming and those infamous all-nighters.

Go Outside

That’s right; it’s important to go outside and get a little exercise during the day. Physical activity can help promote more regular sleep and wake patterns as well as reduce stress. Plus, time spent in the sunlight helps to preserve your circadian rhythm – the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Just be sure to allow plenty of time to wind down before bed.

“Exercise is important but not right before bed,” says Dr. Daniel Klauer of the TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre in Granger, Indiana. “Kids should be active throughout the day, but when they’re active right before bed, their heart rate will be elevated.”


Minimize Electronics and Food Right Before Bed

“All electronics should be turned off one hour before bedtime,” says Dr. Klauer. “That includes tablets, smartphones, and laptops.” Screen time may activate the brain, says the NSF, and the light generated from electronics can negatively affect your circadian rhythm.

Similarly, food is also a no-no right before bed. “All food and beverages should be done by 7pm,” says Dr. Klauer.


Drown Out the Noise

Skinny on Blackout Shades Night Sky

“Creating a quiet bedroom environment is key to a full, healthy night’s rest,” according to the NSF. Even small sounds can alert the brain and disrupt good sleep. “Not only can “noise pollution” steal your slumber and make you feel drowsy the next day, there is some evidence that sounds such as those from constant, loud urban traffic or close proximity to an airport may have a negative effect on health.” To counteract this, consider using a white noise machine or even a fan.


Better Control Over Light

Simply put, “Managing darkness in the bedroom contributes to better sleep,” says NSF CEO David M. Cloud.

Light control is important in the bedroom because the body needs total darkness in order to achieve a good night’s sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “your bedroom should be free from any light” and you should “consider using blackout curtains,” also known as Blackout or Room Darkening Shades. These window treatments are great for “blocking evening light, street lights, as well as morning rays (especially handy if you have an early riser),” says the NSF. “These can also be useful to darken the room for daytime naps.”

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