All across the country, schools are opening their doors for the beginning of another year. And while the back-to-school season is a very exciting time, it can also be a very stressful one and can have a serious impact on sleep. There are, however, a number of effective ways to cope with this yearly transition.
Why the Back to School Season Impacts Sleep
There are three main reasons why the back to school season impacts sleep.
Firstly, during the summer vacation, Very Well Family notes that sleep routines in many families tend to be more relaxed than they would be the rest of the year. Children don't have to get up early in the morning and get ready for school, so they can stay up later in the evening and sleep in the next morning. But when school begins the summer routine suddenly ends. Kids have to get up and get around early, even though they cannot get to sleep at an earlier hour. Before they can adjust to the new routine, children may not be getting enough sleep, which can lead to fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
Secondly, DrugFree.org reports that for teenage students in particular, there are simply not enough hours in the day once school starts. Their internal clock is set later than that of either adults or younger children. Teens often find it hard to get to sleep before 11 PM, even if they want to. When school starts and an early morning schedule kicks in, they cannot get the 8 -10 hours of sleep they need and still be on time for classes the next day.
Thirdly, the beginning of the school year can be a stressful time, and stress affects sleep, according to Sleep.org. A child may be fearful of going back to school for a variety of reasons: bullying, homework, teachers, whether or not other kids will like them, unfamiliar surroundings. Worrying keeps the child awake at night, and a vicious cycle begins. Lack of sleep induces the body to increase the levels of stress hormones, which can make the child feel “wired". Consequently it is harder to fall asleep the next night, and the cycle begins all over again.
Tips for Adjusting to the Start of School
The beginning of a new school year is always going to be a big change for students and families alike. However, Sleep.org has suggested a number of ways to help students get a good night's sleep when school begins.
- About two to three weeks before the first day of school, begin setting a routine of earlier sleep and wake times. Have children go to bed five to fifteen minutes earlier each day. This gradual change will help the circadian rhythm adjust to the new schedule.
- This might not be popular, but it is also a good idea to remove all electronic devices from the bedroom. Using them close to bedtime can lead to poor sleep. A good rule of thumb is to say "no" to the use of electronic gadgets an hour before going to bed.
- Establish a relaxing night-time routine which may include activities like reading a book or taking a bath. If the routine is repeated every night, eventually the child's brain will receive the signals that it is time to prepare for sleep.
In short, the back to school season is always a major transition for both students and their parents. However, with a little planning, the stress and sleep deprivation which often occur this time of year can be greatly reduced, making this transition much easier on everyone.