Getting into a good back-to-school sleep routine

Posted at 8:28 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 10:28:13-04

BOISE, Idaho — Students are heading back to school soon, and whether they're heading back to a physical classroom or remote learning, making sure your student is getting enough sleep is important to their success.

Regence Wellness Consultant Justin Jones says during the pandemic, people across all age groups have seen a disruption in their sleep patterns. He says there are a number of reasons to get that sleep hygiene in order--for both children and adults.

"The hard part about the disruptions, especially with sleep, is it just leads to other health and wellness problems which is anxiety and depression which we're seeing a lot of. Weight gain and even reduced immune system and so that's a big concern," explains Jones.

Physicians across the country dealing with the rise in sleep issues have dubbed it "covid-somnia," a condition that could lead to insomnia or hypersomnia. Jones says there are steps you can take to promote healthy sleep.

"I think the biggest one is just getting back to that routine, and develop a routine. It's important to get our kids involved in that routine as well and teach them about why we want to get into that routine, but one of the biggest things is to go to bed at the same time every night as well as wake up at the same time every morning," says Jones.

He suggests making sure to start getting your sleep routine ready about an hour before you go to bed so your body can adjust. He also suggests adding exercise to your daily routine.

"We know that people who exercise at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise sleep better at night so it's important to get our kids out as well as get ourselves out exercising every day."

Jones says while you can add things to help your sleep routine, you should also look at taking away some things. If you're sensitive to caffeine, remember that it has a half-life of about six hours and a quarter-life of 12 hours so if you can't sleep, cutting out or rethinking what time you consume caffeine may be a solution.

Jones also suggests taking a closer look at your alcohol consumption.

"Alcohol is a sedative, but we can't replace or confuse sedation with sleep. Alcohol can really disrupt our sleep patterns, especially that deep, REM sleep that we're after, and if we don't get that, we wake up and we feel unrested," says Jones.

Getting a good night's sleep doesn't just mean setting a good pattern for yourself. You also need to optimize your sleep environment.

"In our bedrooms, just keep it cool. Cooler temperatures just really promote sleep, and they reduce perspiration which can lead to some discomfort," Jones says. "Keep an extra blanket. If you get cool, it's better to be able to put on a blanket than it is to just be hot in that room."

Removing distractions is another key to optimizing your environment. That means taking your television or your devices out of the bedroom.

"I know that's hard because a lot of us go to bed and we have that phone with us all the time, but the blue light that's emitted from those screens can keep us up at night. It throws our rhythm off a little bit. It almost makes us feel we're waking up or it's daytime because of the light so that's an important one," he explains.

One solution: have a set place outside of the bedroom for the family to plug their phones in at night. Jones says once that blue light is out of your room, focus on getting other lights out of the room.

"The darker, the better. Get those lights turned off. Darkness really promotes melatonin release which is a sleep hormone so if it's light in your bedroom, sometimes that can keep us up, too. "

Don't forget, sleep recommendations are different for all age groups. Preschool-age children need 10 to 13 hours while 6 to 13-year-olds need nine to 11 hours. Your 14 to 17-year-olds require eight to 10 hours.

For more questions about setting up a healthy sleep routine, talk to your family doctor or check out these sources: AAP, the National Sleep Foundation, or here.