Have your kids become professional night owls over the summertime? Don’t sweat it.
It’s natural for them to want to stay up later when it’s lighter outside during June, July and August.
And many of them sleep in because they don’t have to rush to the bus stop. Who can blame them?!
Alas, school is right around the corner, and it’s time to shift your kids’ bedtimes earlier.
But, parents, don’t try to do this overnight.
Experts say it won’t work.
Crystal Hunter, a mother-of-three in Southfield, knows changing her kids’ sleep routines will be a major challenge.
“We’re going to start today and work our way through it,” she said stoically.
“How are you going to do that?,” I asked her.
Crystal shrugged and replied jokingly, “Lord, I don’t know. Nyquil?!”
We both laughed.
ADVICE FROM THE SLEEP DOCTOR
But seriously, the whole transition can be as alarming as your morning alarm going off during your sweetest of dreams.
So, I enlisted the help of someone who knows a little something about counting sheep.
Dr. Meeta Singh is the chief of sleep medicine at the Henry Ford Sleep Disorder Center in Novi.
She’s literally the sleep doctor to the pros!
More than a half-a-dozen pro sports teams listen to her-- including all four professional sports teams here in Detroit.
She recommends a three-step strategy for transitioning kids back to their school-year sleep schedule.
1. Shift bedtimes/wake up times gradually for at least two weeks.
“Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier and waking up 15 minutes earlier. And do that for 2 or 3 days. And then do that again. And then slowly you get back to the time you need to go to bed,” explained Dr. Singh.
Make sure your kids continue this on weekends – not just weekdays. They'll lose the progress they've gained if they break their earlier bedtime streak on the weekend.
2. Set age-appropriate sleep goals.
Dr. Singh says teenagers need nine hours of sleep per night, and elementary and middle school-aged children need 10 hours a night.
*Insert record scratch here*
Yep! You read that right.
Teenagers: 9 hours of sleep recommended per night. Elementary/Middle School-age children: 10 hours of sleep recommended per night
“While you’re asleep, all the things that are essential for growth - including mental development, brain development - is what’s taking place. So yes, young adults and children, they need more sleep,” said Dr. Singh.
3. Make the bedroom like a cave – cold and dark
The cold encourages kids to snuggle in under the covers.
The dark is all about what Dr. Singh calls “strategic light avoidance.”
Draw the curtains. Turn off the lights. Yes, continue all that.
But as important is to eliminate artificial light.
That means (and you may hear the kids groaning already) no televisions, tablets, smart phones, or other electronics during wind-down time in the bedroom.
And when you wake the kids up, do the opposite.
Embrace brightness. Salute the sun. Get them outside.
This process will help them get on their natural Circadian Rhythm.
CELL PHONES AND ENERGY DRINKS – UGH!
Both smart phones and energy drinks seem to be part of many teen's routines. But there should be a cut off point.
Dr. Singh suggests if your kids use a cell phone as an alarm, charge it in a nearby room so they aren’t tempted to pick it up during the night to look at it.
Also, she recommends that kids ditch the energy drinks by midday.
Dr. Singh said children shouldn’t have caffeinated beverages 5-to-6 hours before bedtime if they really want to get to sleep.
And, yes, many of these practices can apply to sleep-deprived adults, too.