Roc Well Report: Back to School Sleep

- Local 4-year-old Riley May is soaking up her last weeks of summer.  She starts pre-k in September. 

"She absolutely will have to get up earlier," her stepmother, Deb Beegen, said.

Experts say sleep is critical to a child's growth and development, and adjusting that schedule can be a challenge.

"I kind of think of it like jet lag," Golisano Children's Hospital Director of Sleep Services Dr. Heidi Connolly said. "You know, when you fly somewhere, and you've changed time zones, it's hard for your body to adjust to that. What's happening with school starting is the same thing except you're not going anywhere."

Beegen says she's planning a sleep schedule shift to avoid any problems.

"Right now she stays up about an hour later than her normal time," she said, "So we'll gradually get her back to her 8 p.m. bedtime."

One pediatrician says gradual change is the way to go.

"It's a lot easier to push your bedtime back 15 minutes per night for two weeks than to go from going to bed at midnight to going to bed at 9 p.m. over the course of one night," Dr. Tracey Henderson said.

Henderson recommended adjusting your child's sleep schedule on both ends. In other words, if they go to bed earlier, wake them up earlier too. It also helps to establish a consistent bedtime routine by creating a sleeping environment free of distraction. Make sure it's cool, quiet, and dark.

"Lots of morning light exposure will help things shift earlier, and lots of exercise in the morning," Connolly said. "You want to avoid light exposure and exercise in the evening time because those are wake-promoting kinds of things."

Beegen says she isn't too concerned about Riley cooperating with the changes.

"She's a real good sleeper," she said. "She's really good about going to bed."

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