Back to School and A Good Night's Sleep

Rochester, Minnesota - Is a good night's sleep on your list of back-to-school essentials? Pediatric sleep expert with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center Suresh Kotagal, M.D., says getting enough sleep is critical to students' well-being and ability to learn.

Dr. Kotagal says an estimated 30 to 50 percent of children have trouble sleeping well, but a few healthy habits could help many of them sleep more soundly.

  • Don't drink caffeine after dinner.
  • Regular exercise leads to better sleep.
  • Turn off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
  • Silence phones so text or message alerts won't wake the child up.
  • Not allowing students to stay up too late on weekend nights will make Monday's early starts easier to deal with.

If your child has a major adjustment to make from their summer sleep pattern to the demands of a school day schedule, Dr. Kotagal suggests starting now to shift their morning wake-up times gradually. For example, if your child is used to rising at 10 a.m., wake them tomorrow at 9:30.

Dr. Kotagal says falling asleep earlier will be easier for older children if they can avoid midday naps. The doctor says studies have found that a lack of sleep can contribute to emotional moodiness, weight gain and a lack of concentration. In fact, Dr. Kotagal says our brains store away all the things we've tried to learn during the day during a restful sleep.

Usually, he says, a few healthy lifestyle changes can resolve the problem. But, if your child is struggling to get a good night's sleep, he recommends asking your family physician for guidance.

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