• Health & Wellness

    BACK-TO-SCHOOL: A Good Night’s Sleep

young boy sleeping on his school books

Is a good night's sleep on your list of back-to-school essentials? Pediatric sleep expert with the Mayo Clinic Children's Center Suresh Kotagal, M.D., says getting enough sleep is critical to students' well-being and ability to learn.

Dr. Kotagal says an estimated 30 to 50 percent of children have trouble sleeping well, but a few healthy habits could help many of them sleep more soundly.

  • Don't drink caffeine after dinner.
  • Regular exercise leads to better sleep.
  • Turn off all electronic devices an hour before bedtime.
  • Silence phones so text or message alerts won't wake the child up.
  • Not allowing students to stay up too late on weekend nights will make Monday's early starts easier to deal with.

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Kotagal are available in the downloads.

If your child has a major adjustment to make from their summer sleep pattern to the demands of a school day schedule, Dr. Kotagal suggests starting now to shift their morning wake-up times gradually. For example, if your child is used to rising at 10 a.m., wake them tomorrow at 9:30.

/// Sound Bite - READJUSTING YOUR INTERNAL CLOCK: (Dr. Suresh Kotagal, Mayo Clinic Pediatric Neurologist)  "Then after two to three days, maybe wake up at 9 a.m., moving backward like that until we come to a time around 6:30 or so, and then try to stick with that."  TRT :12 

Dr. Kotagal says falling asleep earlier will be easier for older children if they can avoid midday naps. The doctor says studies have found that a lack of sleep can contribute to emotional moodiness, weight gain and a lack of concentration. In fact, Dr. Kotagal says our brains store away all the things we've tried to learn during the day during a restful sleep.

/// Sound Bite - SLEEP IS ESSENTIAL FOR LEARNING: (Dr. Suresh Kotagal, Mayo Clinic Pediatric Neurologist)  “Facts become firmly ingrained in our minds and we’re able to pull them out the next day. So for the consolidation of memory to occur it’s important for the child to have a good night of sleep.”  TRT :12

Usually, he says, a few healthy lifestyle changes can resolve the problem. But, if your child is struggling to get a good night's sleep, he recommends asking your family physician for guidance.