Back 2 School: WNY pediatric sleep specialist offers tips for better sleep

Too much screen time and inconsistent schedules can affect your child’s sleep.

BUFFALO, NY — For some kids, summer is a free time when it comes to bedtimes and wake-up calls, but now that students are heading back to class, it’s time to get back into a good sleep routine.

Ideally, kids (and really adults, too) should maintain a consistent sleep schedule year-round, meaning going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

“Every day because your body clock doesn’t know it’s summer vacation or it’s Christmas or it’s Sunday, for example,” said Amanda Hassinger, MD MS with UBMD Pediatrics. “Children need regular sleep schedules. It’s very important for their health and well-being.”

Dr. Hassinger knows that a regular sleep routine is often not a reality, especially during the summer. So she suggests parents start adjusting their kids’ sleep schedules now so they’re ready for back to school.

“You have to start this transition gradually, otherwise this first week of school is going to be painful for everyone in the house. Not just for the children, but also for the children’s teachers and for you! If you start now, adjust the ‘time they wake up at even just half an hour, every week, you’ll get closer to that six or seven o’clock wake-up call that’s so brutal on September 6,’ Dr. Hassinger said.

Dr. Hassinger says teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep each night to function properly and to grow properly. Insufficient sleep can lead to serious conditions like anxiety and depression.

She also warns against too much screen time too close to bedtime.

“Every screen has the same wavelength as the sun – blue light. So while it may seem like your child is calming down looking at their Cocomelon or looking at their iPad, streaming through TikTok, they’re actually sending a signal to their body that it’s daytime. It can suppress their own production of melatonin and a good two hours of sleepiness,” Hassinger said.

She recommends a “screen curfew” every night… and yes, she says adults should close it too. Log out and turn off the phone at least an hour before bedtime for better sleep.

Finally, Dr. Hassinger said that our body is not like a bank account – we cannot deposit extra sleep on the weekend and then withdraw during the week. Our bodies and biological clocks don’t work that way, so while sleeping on Saturday and Sunday is good at that time, it doesn’t make up for the lack of sleep during the school week.

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