Creating A Sleep Routine For The New School Year: A Q&A With Pediatrician Dr. Noorjahan Ali

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When the summer has come to an end and it’s time for school supply shopping and laying out the first day of school outfits, there is one activity many parents dread – getting their children into bed early.

Dr. Noorjahan Ali advises parents on healthy sleep habits for children
Pediatrician Dr. Noorjahan Ali, MD

While it may be a battle at times, experts agree that making sure your child is getting enough rest is important for their overall wellbeing.

“Sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes including: improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health,” according to members of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Transitioning to a new school year can be a great opportunity to revisit your whole family’s current bedtime routine and set some healthy guidelines so everyone wakes up ready for success.

To learn more about how to help your child get enough sleep each night, we talked to Pediatrician and Mattress Clarity Expert Network member Dr. Noorjahan Ali.

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MC: Is it common for kids’ sleep schedules to change during the summer? If so, how/why?

Dr. Ali: Absolutely! During the summer, all schedules go out the window! There are often more late nights and sleeping in. Often there are vacations planned so there is sometimes less sleep overall – or at least less structured sleep. 

MC: What are some of the sleep-related challenges that kids and parents face as they transition back to school?

Dr. Ali: The biggest challenge is getting back into the routine of no late nights on school nights and waking up around the time they normally would for school.

MC: Why is maintaining a consistent sleep schedule important for schoolchildren?

Dr. Ali: Children thrive on routine and consistency. Disruptions are easy to fall into, but getting back into a normal cycle is more difficult to adjust to. Consistency in sleep schedules helps foster better memory building and in turn a healthier brain and circadian rhythm.

MC: As the school year starts, what are some signs parents can look for to know if their child is or is not getting enough sleep?

Dr. Ali: If a child is getting enough sleep, they wake up rested and ready to tackle the day. They wake up easier and are more manageable. A child that is not getting enough sleep is more difficult to arouse in the morning, more sluggish, and often has behavioral outbursts throughout the day. They might even fall asleep or appear drowsy during the day.

MC: What are some strategies parents can use to help get their kids back on–and maintain–a regular sleep schedule for the school year?

Dr. Ali: Start to establish a bedtime routine about 1 to 2 weeks before the start of school. Move bedtime up by 30-minute increments until arriving at the desired school year sleep time. Do the same with wake up times. Allow for minimal deviations from this on weekends.

MC: Anything else that’s important to add?

Dr. Ali: A healthy sleep schedule is important for memory and behavioral stability, no matter what developmental stage we are in.

Expert Bio: Dr. Noorjahan Ali is a pediatrician and solo practitioner at Advanced Pediatric Care in Jacksonville, FL, where she treats children from birth through age 21. She trained in General Pediatrics at Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital of Brooklyn, which is part of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and is the only children’s hospital in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to her work as a pediatrician, Dr. Ali has researched and published several scientific publications in peer-reviewed medical journals. 

Featured image: HQuality/Shutterstock

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Katie Golde

Katie previously managed the day to day operations of the Mattress Clarity news site and reviews sleep products in addition to writing and editing sleep news. She hails from Austin, where she lives with her growing family. She is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and has a master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University and has a background in health and science content. Her work can be found in print and online publications like Discover Magazine, USA Today and The Huffington Post.