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Johns Hopkins Health - Are Your Kids Tired?

Fall 2016
Issue No. 34

Are Your Kids Tired?

Date: October 4, 2016

Sleep Solutions for Tired Kids

Kid Sleeping

The secret to success at school? Sleep!

“A full night’s sleep affects every aspect of a child’s physical and mental health, which in turn impacts school performance,” says pediatric pulmonologist Cecilia Melendres, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s Pediatric Sleep Center.

But most school-age children and teens are not getting the recommended eight to 11 hours of sleep they need, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Sleep-deprived kids are at a higher risk for behavior problems, and their grades may suffer. Melendres knows it’s not practical to put older kids to bed at 8 p.m., but she does have solid advice for setting healthy sleep habits.

  • Get the kids on board. “Middle and high schoolers need to buy into the plan that sleep is important,” says Melendres. She suggests having age-appropriate discussions about how lack of sleep affects them personally. “Engage with them individually. Some kids will respond to logic; others might need a carrot-and-stick approach.”
  • Set a sleep schedule. It’s not too late to wean kids off late summer bedtimes and rise times. Just do it gradually by 15 to 30 minutes each day so the body can adjust more naturally.
  • Create a relaxing routine. “The two hours before bedtime should be conducive to sleep,” she says. A few ways to help: Consider trimming evening athletics so kids aren’t rushing home from practice and going right to bed—vigorous activity late in the day keeps the body in wake mode. Have homework done early so computers can be turned off at least an hour before bed—the blue light interferes with the body’s sleep cycle. Aim to have an early dinner (without caffeinated drinks), since eating too close to bedtime can make it difficult to doze off. Also, impose a cellphone curfew.

Did You Know?

Trying to “catch up” on lost sleep over the weekend only makes Monday mornings that much harder. To resist the urge, try scheduling weekend A.M. activities. 

Your Top Sleep Questions Answered

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