Students jet lagged after break

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Students jet lagged after break

Sleep experts are urging parents to start adjusting their child’s sleep schedule now if they want them to avoid feeling flat for the first few weeks of school.

Professor Dorothy Bruck, Sleep Psychologist at Victoria University likened the effects to that of jet lag.

“Getting students back into early morning starts for school can be difficult.  For some, moving from a holiday routine to a school routine is like travelling across a three hour time zone,” she said.

International studies have shown that an alarming four out of ten high school students report levels of daytime sleepiness well beyond the normal range.  For most of these students the reason is simply not getting enough sleep.

“Children and teenagers are often only getting about seven hours sleep each night, yet experts recommend nine hours for teenagers and more for 5 – 12 year olds," Professor Bruck said.

Professor Bruck explained that parents have an important role to play in teaching their children to value sleep.

“Sleep is as important as healthy food and exercise, parents can help their children look forward to going to bed by getting them ready for bed in good time and ensuring that the hour before bed is wind-down time. They will then start to feel ready for sleep and look forward to going to bed.

“Research consistently shows that watching television or using computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices in the bedroom before going to sleep leads to later bedtimes and takes longer to fall asleep,” Professor Bruck warned.

The blue light from computer screens suppresses the melatonin hormone that is required to make people feel sleepy. On the other hand having a warm bath or shower, chatting or reading are good pre-bed activities.  

How to re-program your child’s sleep habits

  • Gradually move the getting up time forward to the time they would get up on a school day
  • Expose the child to bright sunlight shortly after getting up.  Bright light will suppress their morning levels of the sleep-inducing melatonin hormone and reset their body clock
  • Gradually move the going to bed time forward so they can get at least nine hours sleep before they have to get up
  • Try and maintain the school night schedule on weekend nights as many teenagers move through a two or three hour time zone every weekend, giving them jet lag at the beginning of each school week.