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It's time to get your kids back in their school year bedtime routine

Experts say now is the time to start moving your child's bedtime and wake up times up to prepare for the school year.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's something your kids can do every single night to help them improve their physical and mental health, not to mention their grades this year. 

So what's at stake when they go to sleep every night, and how can you help them develop healthy bedtime habits? 2 On Your Side consulted with the team at UBMD's Pediatric Sleep Center to find out. 

Poor sleep can result in problems with learning, hyperactivity, temper tantrums, aggressive behavior, and even ADHD in young children. For teens, poor sleep habits are associated with depression, anxiety, moodiness, and failing classes. Medical experts say these problems worsened as students fell out of their normal routines during remote learning. 

Dr. Amanda Hassinger of the UBMD's Pediatric Sleep Center told 2 On Your Side that when they surveyed Western New York parents of children ages 6-13 last year, they found that students were sleeping more when their schools were closed to the pandemic. However, they weren't getting as high-quality sleep. 

"All children across the board had worse problems, worse sleep," Dr. Hassinger said. "They had more nightmares, they were having trouble sleeping by themselves, they were refusing to go to sleep at night. There was bedtime refusal, and the parents actually thought they weren't getting enough sleep, even though they were sleeping more." 

Dr. Hassinger says the change in the quality of sleep had to do with the disruption of nighttime and morning routines.  

"What we learned from the pandemic is that anytime there's an abrupt change in a child's schedule, they suffer if they don't have the same routine," she said. "We're all animals of routine. Human beings love the same schedule. It's actually in our DNA, and when we don't get that schedule, we don't function as well." 

Dr. Hassinger says now is the time to start putting those routines back into place to start the school year off right.

"We need to prepare our children when there's going to be a change," she said. "If this upcoming school year is going to have a lot of issues with quarantine or closures or two-week closures here and there, it's very important and vital, and we're teaching our parents this, to keep their schedule the same, even if they don't have to go to school. Even if their classes are online and they only have a session at 11 o'clock, they still have to wake up at 6 a.m., or else they will not be able to have as much patience and focus and learning for the next day." 

Dr. Hassinger suggests that parents start moving their child's wake-up time up 30 minutes every few days, a couple of weeks before the first day of school to get them adjusted to waking up earlier. This will also make it easier for them to start falling asleep earlier at night. She says the best way to wake them up is to open the blinds to get sunlight on their face, and go outside for a walk if they don't want to get moving right away. 

Wondering what the right bedtime for your child is, and how long they should be sleeping? Hassinger says children ages 6-12 should go to bed between 7:30 p.m. and  8 p.m. and sleep 9-12 hours a night. Children ages 13 and up should go to bed between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. and sleep for 8-10 hours. 

More information is available by watching UBMD's recent webinar on Sleep for School Success