How to get kids back on a sleep schedule as school starts back up

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Posted at 9:29 AM, Aug 19, 2021

For kids, extra screen time due to remote schooling disrupted sleep schedules and the freedom to sleep-in over summer break may have made the problem worse.

So, as kids get back in the classroom, we spoke with a sleep expert on some ways to correct this.

First, start with the simple rule of no screen time before bed.

“Melatonin is the hormone that helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep. When your eyes see blue light within a couple of hours of bedtime, basically that hormone production gets suppressed,” said Dr. Katherine Green, Medical Director at the UCHealth Sleep Medicine Clinic.

Changing screen time habits can then have an impact on what time kids wake up.

Dr. Green says a good wake-up time is the main driving force in correcting a sleep schedule. However, this may be especially tough for teenagers, who she says are naturally night owls because of the hormonal changes they're going through.

But if they get between eight and 10 hours of sleep, teens should be able to avoid feeling tired in school, which can impact performance.

“Sleep disorders in kids tend to present not with the typical excessive daytime sleepiness or dozing off that we see in adults, but actually with symptoms very similar to attention deficit disorder, so hyperactivity or acting out or labile emotions are all really things that we see come to the surface when kids aren't getting enough sleep,” said Dr. Green.

One mom says for her 10-year-old son, migraines started disrupting his school day and his sleep schedule.

“Which I just thought was alarming because he's a 10-year-old, he shouldn't have to have these headaches all the time and it didn't take very long to realize that it was eye strain from looking at the screen all the time. It's from staring at videos and staring at words on the monitor,” said Jude Chao, whose son suffers from headaches.

Chao says green light therapy has helped her son. Green light therapy was developed by Harvard neuroscientist, Dr. Rami Burstein. The therapy was transformed into something called the Allay Lamp, which has the opposite effect on our brains than blue light produced by our devices.

“He’s fallen asleep much more easily and a lot of that is because he's not going to bed with a headache or uncomfortable in any way,” said Chao.

Dr. Green also suggests using natural light to correct sleep schedules. Early morning light exposure can help set the body’s circadian rhythm.