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Sleep Key to Good Health and Academic Success

August 31st, 2016

As children head back to school, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center is offering some important advice for parents to ensure their children get off to a good start.

Whether your child is beginning pre-K, is headed to elementary school, high school or even college, making the transition from the long, lazy days of summer to a busy school routine can be challenging. Maintaining a proper sleep/wake schedule is very important at any age and developing good sleeping habits early in childhood makes it more likely that they will continue as your child grows.

According to Dimitry Vaysman, MD, a pediatric sleep expert for Good Samaritan Hospital, it is important to maintain the same sleep/wake schedule on weekends and holidays as on weekdays. “During teenage years, staying up late, difficulty waking with the alarm clock, and dozing until noon on the weekends is quite common. One of the reasons adolescents become night owls is the lifestyle of this age group which brings heavy loads of homework and busy social lives, but also a biological shift that occurs in teenage years.”

Vaysman says that a person’s biological clock shifts in adolescence and instead of feeling drowsy in the evening, teenagers actually become more alert and have difficulty settling in to sleep. In the morning, when people of other ages are awake and ready for the day, teenagers still have elevated melatonin levels and often feel groggy as a result. Many teens may feel drowsy in the middle of the day, regardless of their sleep habits.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute currently recommends at least 10 hours of sleep per day for school-age children, nine to 10 hours for teenagers and seven to eight hours daily for adults. Loss of sleep adds up to sleep debt and correlations have been drawn between sleep deprivation and weight gain, dulled memory and even life-threatening disease.

A study published in Science Translational Medicine (October 18, 2013) suggests that sleep purges the brain of toxins. To stay healthy, students of all ages must get their rest each night and for children, a set bedtime is very important.

A reorientation is suggested for parents and children to help adjust to the hectic demands of the school year that includes rising early, classroom and after school programs and completing homework. Good nutrition, a quiet study area and a structured routine are essential for academic success. Without it, there may be poor cognitive performance, deficient physical ability and even behavioral issues.

For teens, limiting screen time in the evening is important, since the blue light emitted by screens on devices like ipads and cell phones can send alerting signals to the brain. Teens who seem to be excessively sleepy despite what appears to be a full night’s sleep, says Dr. Vaysman, should consult with their doctor for more guidance.

For more information or to schedule your child for a pediatric sleep study, call (631) 376-4444.