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Back To School Means Back To Bed for TN Kids

August 12, 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Children head back to school this month, which means it's time for reading, writing, arithmetic - and rest.

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) is reminding parents that a good night's sleep equals success in the classroom - and it starts before the first day of school.

Dr. Kevin Smith, a sleep specialist with Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, says inadequate sleep can lead to irritability and impaired focus. He warns parents: Don't wait until the night before school starts to adjust your child's bedtime.

"The longer you have to do this, the easier it is. I recommend starting a couple weeks before school, but even if you started today, the key is to make the increments as small as you can to make that adjustment easier."

Children ages 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep, the TEA says, while older students need about nine. With the increasing demands of homework, sports and extracurricular activities on a student's time, the lack of sleep can also lead to other behavioral problems and can impact a child's ability to learn in school.

Reducing your child's exposure to light will help with the back-to-school sleep transition, Smith says.

"Light affects our body, our sleep-wake cycles, and exposure to light late in the evening can delay our body's ability to fall asleep."

Have kids come inside earlier, Smith says, and decrease their exposure to bright lights and light from the screens of electronics such as television, cell phone, and the computer 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime.

The TEA says its reports with the National Sleep Foundation suggest that bedrooms should be dark, cool and quiet.

Bo Bradshaw, Public News Service - TN