Getting more Z's spells A's and B's

HOUSTON (Aug 26, 2010) — Note to parents: Tucking your child in earlier could result in higher grades on your child’s next report card. 

“Getting good sleep and enough sleep is a key element in leading a healthy lifestyle,” says Philip Alapat, MD, medical director, Sleep Center, Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital. “Kids who are rested participate more in the classroom, are more alert and attentive, and tend to do better academically.” 

According to Alapat, children need at least eight, and preferably 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night. This can be a challenge after summer when kids generally break the normal sleep cycle and stay up and sleep later. However, parents can get their children back on track by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Set realistic goals. Determine your child's wake up time and count backwards to ensure eight hours of sleep
  • Plan meals around the bed schedule. Consume dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime so that your child can unwind before it’s time to hit the sack.
  • Establish a routine and stick to it. An hour before bedtime, help your child prepare for the next day by completing nightly rituals — taking a bath, setting aside clothes for the following day and making sure homework is complete.
  • Stay away from caffeine. Caffeine affects the brain and can stay in the body’s system for six to nine hours, making it difficult for your child to fall asleep.

Alapat says one of the most important things you can do to ensure your kids get adequate sleep is to keep them on a schedule — even on the weekends.

"Oftentimes, just like in the summer, kids stay up late and rise later on weekend days,” he says. “This altered sleep schedule can cause a jet lag feel that can lead to insomnia at bedtime and sleepiness in the mornings. Following a sleeping routine can make your kid feel better physically and emotionally and is a crucial part of attaining and maintaining good overall health.”

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