School is back in session with many areas across the US changing schedules for a variety of reasons: bus driver shortages and research that implies kids need more sleep.
California passed a law restricting middle schools from starting before 8 am. “Supporters of the first-in-the-nation policy, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in 2019, cite what they say is “overwhelming research” showing that later school start times result in kids sleeping more, which improves their health and academic performance.” (Calmatters.com)
What does the research say about when – and how much – sleep kids need?
Kids need sleep depending on their age. According to Nemours Kids Health, the following is how much sleep each age group needs:
- infants (0–3 months): 14–17 hours, including naps
- infants (4–12 months: 12–16 hours, including naps
- toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours, including naps
- preschool (3–5 years): 10–13 hours, including naps
- school-age (6–13 years): 9–12 hours
- teens (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
So, why should school times be changed?
Middle school age is the average for puberty. During puberty, adolescents experience a change in their circadian rhythm. The body releases its natural melatonin later, meaning they have a more challenging time falling asleep and are often not sleepy until 11 pm.
Falling asleep at 11 pm and catching the bus at 7 am (sometimes earlier) to start school at 8 am means only 7 hours of sleep. The research that shows how much sleep kids need also reports the dangers of missing sleep; the risks range from falling asleep in class and lack of concentration to depression and an increase in accidents on sports fields and on the road.
By starting school later, middle schoolers and older have time to do homework, play a sport or play outside, and spend quality time with friends or family. These things lead to better overall health and better sleep and will also provide an increase in dopamine, the hormone that boosts our happiness.
How Can You Help Get The Sleep Kids Need?
- Provide a solid routine for your kids.
It’s become more common for kids, young adults, and adults to take melatonin to trick the body into a sleepy state. The long-term use of melatonin is not suitable for the body. By teaching the body to wind down by creating a healthy bedtime routine, you can help your child sleep better.
- Turn off devices at least an hour before bedtime.
The brain is programmed to understand that wind-down time starts at dusk. By using devices after sunset, we are lessening our chances of quality sleep. Have a central place in the house (outside of bedrooms) to place all devices on charge.
- Get outside.
Research shows that spending time outdoors can help you sleep. Whether it’s resetting your body clock by camping, or the fact that it encourages activity that helps you sleep, there’s no denying that outdoor activities will help you get the sleep kids need.
- Enjoy the weekends.
By giving kids an opportunity to socialize with friends and family on the weekends, they may be less likely to feel the need to socialize late on weekdays. It can also teach kids to plan ahead, an important life skill.
With schools starting at different times across the country and bus shortages making the commute longer, it seems that we have a long way to go in providing the best hours for children. However, the research we have may help us to understand their sleep needs and adjust to their habits. If you have any concerns about your child’s sleep, please get in touch! Use the form below to reach us: