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Want Your Kids to Have Their Best Year Ever? Have Them Get Some Sleep.

For our kids, the holiday season is both a blessing and a curse. A week or so off from school means staying up late and sleeping in (not my son!) the next day – two things every teen loves to do, until it’s time to get back to the grind, and the sleep monster rears its ugly head. So, as your kids get back into the rhythm of school, here are a few things you can try that’ll keep them healthy, well-rested and performing at the top of their game in school and in life, all year-round. It all starts with sleep!
Here’s how to get it done:
1. Keep their schedule consistent: Here’s a page you can steal from the shift-worker playbook. In order for shift workers to stay healthy and free from exhaustion at work, they follow two simple rules: they regiment their sleep schedule each day of the week (including off days), and they consume their meals at times that parallel those waking hours. Skipping meals, or shifting one’s schedule from nights to days on the weekends throws everything off kilter. The key is sticking to the schedule.
To make this work with teenagers, try carving morning activities into their weekend days. For example, if your children are interested in taking music lessons or dancing – anything at all, really – see if you can get them registered for classes early on the weekends. This’ll be easier to do with your 13-16 year olds, but it’s doable with older kids as well with the right incentive. Two weeks of keeping the same schedule, and their sleep habits will become automatic.

2. Bring back the behavior of youngsters: Remember when your kids were “kids” and bedtime was set for 8 or 9pm? It was: eat, watch some TV or do homework, brush teeth, and hit the rack. That was it. And getting up for school was pretty simple wasn’t it? It wasn’t until high school when school and life started heaping more on their plates, that things started getting difficult. Extra-curricular activities, dating, television, homework … whatever it was, their later bedtime started making getting up – and getting through school without getting tired – much more difficult.

Here’s an idea… Try setting “lights out” for a specific time each night. The body has a way of falling in line once we begin going to bed and waking up at the same time each night. Sure, at first your kids are going to want to stay up later, but eventually, Mr. Sandman is going to catch up with them. Especially when everyone else is already in bed.

3. Get More Sunlight: Did you know you can reset your body’s clock with a camping trip? Yep. It seems the secret ingredient is exposure to the sun – something camping provides in spades. Since the invention of the light bulb, however, humans just aren’t getting enough exposure to natural light, and that includes your kids.

Here are two ideas the experts suggest:
  • Have them get sun exposure soon after waking, and several times throughout the day. (This is why getting up early on the weekends helps, too.)
  • Lastly, (and, again, as a family), work at restricting computer and smart phone use at home. Some parents have a no electronic device rule when kids are at home. Even Steve Jobs had such a rule. These devices trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and interrupt our sleep patterns. The same goes for television viewing. And remember, your parents didn’t need a computer before bedtime when you were a kid, and just a few years ago you didn’t either, so see if you can muster up the discipline to try this one out … it is resolution time after all, right
  • To get the most out of life in the new year, you’ve got to first consider the foundation of happiness: your health, and the health of your family. So, try these tips on for size, and aim to get better rest this year!

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