Doctor’s orders: Back to school, back to sleep

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Per doctor's orders, back to school means back to sleep for many Midlands' students.

While summer fun often means late nights and a free pass on a usual bed-time for many kids, doctors say it's extremely important that most students get back in the habit of getting at least 10 hours of sleep.

"Kids need 10 to 12 hours of sleep if you can," said Dr. Caleb Wheeler, a pediatrician at Lexington Pediatric Practice. "I know that usually doesn't fit well with normal family schedules, but when school starts it is very important to try and get back to a routine and get some kind of structure."

Dr. Wheeler says the week before school starts is the best time to start practicing that routine. He adds if a child has good sleep habits, they'll have good school habits.

"A child who is not sleeping well is not going to perform in school," said Dr. Wheeler. "A lot of times it will show up as behavioral issues and learning issues, where it's not a child that has behavioral or learning issues. It's a very smart child, it's just a child that's very tired.

Doctors say all sorts of things can cause a child to become overly tired. "As simple as just a TV in a room is a huge factor in a child that doesn't sleep," said Dr. Wheeler.

Dr. Wheeler says he advises not having a TV in a room of any child whether they are two or 18 years-old.

"They'll say well I need it to fall asleep, but it's going to affect their sleep," said Dr. Wheeler. "Get the TV out of the room. It's the number one thing that I end up finding with sleep issues in kids."

Wheeler says the same thing goes for all other technology.. "A lot kids have computers because they study and education is so computer based. But if you can just say, 'Turn it off,' [or], 'Don't turn the computer on, it is nighttime,' that will really help," said Wheeler.

Doctors say because of all of the latest technology, it may be more of a challenge because kids have so much at their fingertips. "It definitely has changed with some schools now having iPads," said Wheeler. "Kids can do a lot of things with iPads that aren't really into school, so it is really hard to draw the line and say, 'How much time is he actually spending on the iPad?,' cause you don't really know what's educational and what is social and things like that."

But Dr. Wheeler says don't be afraid to step in. He says ultimately, family communication will be best for everyone.

"Make sure they know it's not a punishment to go to bed, [that] it's a good thing," he adds. Wheeler suggests saying things like, "'Let's all get rested, [and] we'll have a good day tomorrow.' He goes on to say, 'Just try to get a good meal and if you can try to get some good family time and then kind of wind everybody down, it will save you a lot of headaches that first week of school."

Many health professionals, including Dr. Wheeler, say particular age groups should get certain amounts of sleep. For three to six year-olds, doctors recommend 10 to 12 hours. It's suggested that 7 to 12 year olds get 10 to 11 hours of sleep. Finally, 12 to 18 year-olds should get between 8 and 9 hours of rest.

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