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August 18, 2021

Back-To-School Series: Get Back to a Healthy Sleep Routine Before School Starts

ThedaCare Pediatrician Stresses the Importance of Quality Sleep

Summer vacation means more relaxed schedules for most families, where bedtimes and wake-up times may wander a bit as they enjoy camping, traveling, and all the fun activities. That relaxed schedule comes to an end, though, when school begins again.

“As August rolls around and the first days of school draw closer, it’s a great time to get our kids back into healthy sleep patterns,” said Sneha Gurunath Subbarayan, M.D., a pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah. “We cannot overstress the importance of children getting sufficient sleep to be successful in school.”

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) offers the following guidelines for how much sleep kids of various ages need:

  • Preschoolers (ages 3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep.
  • School-age children (ages 6-13) require 9-11 hours of sleep.
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) require 8-10 hours of sleep.
Sneha Gurunath Subbarayan, M.D.

“With good sleep, children are in a better mood and have a greater ability to focus,” said Dr. Subbarayan. “Studies are also showing that quality sleep helps children form and retain memories, which is an important part of the learning process.”

She recommends beginning to adjust children’s sleep and wake times about two weeks before the school year starts.

“Establish a wake-up time that will allow everyone to get ready to leave the house without undue stress,” she recommended. “Then, determine the ideal number of hours of sleep your child needs and count back to establish their bedtime. Once you’ve established their bedtime and wake-up time, start adjusting their summer vacation sleep patterns by about 15 minutes every few days to get to your ideal schedule. That will help make the start of the school year much less stressful for everyone in the family.”

Dr. Subbarayan added that it’s also important to establish good bedtime routines.

“Kids should start to wind down about an hour before their bedtime,” she said. “For younger children, a consistent routine helps them understand it’s time for bed. That might include a bath or shower, brushing teeth and cuddling/reading with a parent. As kids get older, they can choose what helps them wind down. Regardless of age, all kids should be off their electronic devices for 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Multiple studies are showing that children exposed to blue light before bedtime experience poorer quality sleep.”

And, Dr. Subbarayan recommends maintaining a consistent bedtime/wake-up schedule even on weekends and during holiday breaks.

“Consistency is so important, especially for younger children,” she said. “And it benefits everyone to stick to normal routines.”

The NSF offers these suggestions for what it calls “good back-to-school sleep hygiene,” noting that both daytime and nighttime activities contribute to the quality of one’s sleep. It recommends that children and youth:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Get regular exercise to promote good sleep and reduce stress.
  • Avoid too many extracurricular activities; free time and rest time are important to children’s development.
  • Avoid napping or limit naps during the day to less than 30 minutes.
  • Limit/avoid caffeine. Many sodas and energy drinks contain caffeine, which is not recommended for children or teens.
  • Avoid sugary snacks and big meals before bedtime.

There are also suggestions for a healthy sleep environment, including:

  • Keep the room dark and cool.
  • Eliminate noises in the household and keep the room quiet. A fan or white-noise machine can help create a soothing sound.
  • Make the bedroom a screen-free zone – no TVs, phones, computers or tablets in the room at bedtime. Use the bed only for sleep and short stretches of reading before bedtime.

Lastly, Dr. Subbarayan reminds parents that children are constantly watching and mimicking adult behavior.

“It’s important that parents and guardians set good examples for kids, and that includes having good sleep habits themselves as well as eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise,” she said. “Our kids are always watching. We have to model the behavior we want them to follow.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique 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 on a patient’s 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.