Skip to Content
Cheerful little girl is sitting on the bed dressed in pajamas and stretching after waking up
August 21, 2023

Back-to-School Series: Adequate Sleep Can Help with Routines

ThedaCare Pediatrician Suggests Setting Sleep Schedule Before School Starts

As families are preparing for another school year, ThedaCare is helping with a back-to-school series. The series will feature topics that can help students gear up for a healthy and successful year. In this article, Sneha Subbarayan, M.D., a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah and ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Appleton, will discuss how to help students and families get back into a sleep schedule. 

Studies have long shown how sleep has a significant impact on a child’s academic success. With a new school year upon us, ThedaCare physicians recommend parents start setting a consistent sleep schedule for their kids.

“We suggest parents begin one to two weeks before school begins, gradually shifting bedtime and wake-up time earlier each day to ease the transition,” said Dr. Subbarayan. “This can enable your child’s body to adapt to the new sleep schedule without abrupt disruptions.”

Emphasizing the strong connection between sleep and academic performance, research published in the Journal of Pediatrics reveals one-third of school-age children have inadequate sleep and how that lack of rest prevents them from flourishing in school.

Pediatricians say sleep deprivation can be associated with decreased academic performance, attention deficits and learning difficulties. Conversely, children who consistently get sufficient sleep can display improved attention and concentration as well as exhibit enhanced creativity and problem-solving skills.

“Adequate sleep is like fuel for your child’s brain,” Dr. Subbarayan added. “It allows them to stay alert, focused, and ready to absorb new information in the classroom. When children are sleep-deprived, their ability to learn and retain knowledge is significantly impaired, so it is crucial to prioritize their sleep and establish healthy sleep habits.”  

When it comes to how much sleep is the best for your child, it depends on their age.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, school-aged children (6-12 years old) should aim for 9-12 hours of sleep each night. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has set these guidelines:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep.
  • School-age children (ages 6-13) need 9-11 hours of sleep.
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) require 8-10 hours of sleep.

Dr. Subbarayan said parents should aim for a set bedtime and wake-up time that allows for the recommended amount of sleep for their age group, understanding that promoting a sleep schedule is essential. There are some proven ways of doing so.

Establish a Healthy Sleep Environment

It is important to optimize your child’s sleep space for good rest time. Dr. Subbarayan offered the following recommendations:

  • Comfortable Bed and Bedding: Ensure that your child’s mattress, pillow, and bedding are comfortable and age-appropriate. A cozy sleep surface promotes relaxation and quality sleep.
  • Limit Distractions: Keep the bedroom environment quiet, cool, and dark. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones, which can interfere with sleep quality.
  • Dim Lighting: Use blackout curtains or blinds to create a darkened space that promotes better sleep. Nightlights can provide a comforting glow, if needed.
  • Reduce Noise: Minimize external sounds by using earplugs or set up soothing white noise or music.

Encourage Healthy Sleep Habits

Cultivating healthy sleep habits can further enhance your child’s sleep quality.

  • Determine a Bedtime Routine: Help your child wind down before bed by establishing a relaxing routine. Consider activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, practicing deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music. A consistent routine signal to their body that it is time to unwind.
  • Limit Caffeine: Restrict the intake of caffeinated or sugary beverages, particularly in the afternoon and evening, as they can disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Promote Physical Activity: Encourage regular physical activity during the day, as it promotes better sleep quality. But make sure kids complete their exercise at least two hours before bedtime to allow the body to wind down.

“A comfortable and distraction-free space, coupled with a relaxing bedtime routine, sets the stage for a good night’s rest and optimal academic performance,” Dr. Subbarayan emphasized. “By prioritizing sleep in children, we are investing in our children’s future, which will likely yield long-lasting benefits in both their academic and personal lives, better enabling them to reach their full potential.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.