Many parents are enjoying a "schedule-free" summer and are allowing their children to stay up late at night and sleep in in the morning. But now may be the time many sleep experts recommend parents start getting their youngsters back on a normal sleep schedule before school starts.  

Experts suggest regulating kids' sleep times as a new school year approaches. (Jupiterimages, ThinkStock)
Experts suggest regulating kids' sleep times as a new school year approaches. (Jupiterimages, ThinkStock)

"It's never too early to start getting kids back on a schedule, but if you want to get them ready, establishing a regular bed time at least a week ahead of the start of school is good.  But, starting now is even better," said Dr. Maya Ramagopal, pediatric sleep medicine specialist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Ramagopal recommends taking the following steps when trying to get a child back on a sleep schedule:

  • Establish a regular bedtime;
  • No electronics, including television, tablets and smartphones, at least an hour before bedtime;
  • No caffeinated beverages at least six hours before bedtime;
  • Keep room at a comfortable temperature;
  • Keep noise level low

"It's also not good for children to keep the television on when falling asleep.  Subconsciously, their brain is still registering the noise and they may not go into a deep sleep, which they need because that is a time of growth," Ramagopal said.

The amount of time it takes for a child to fall back into a regular sleep pattern depends on the child. While it is recommended that most adolescents get eight to nine hours of sleep per night, quality is much more important than quantity.

"Sleep is different for different people.  Just because someone is getting a certain number of hours doesn't mean it'll be beneficial if it is not good quality sleep," Ramagopal said.

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