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Smooth Back To School Transition Should Happen Overnight, Bergen Doc Says

Pakkay Ngai, M.D., a Pediatric Pulmonologist at the Institute for Sleep Work Disorders at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center.
Pakkay Ngai, M.D., a Pediatric Pulmonologist at the Institute for Sleep Work Disorders at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center. Photo Credit: Contributed

HACKENSACK, N.J. — You bought your child stylish new shoes, colorful notebooks and sharp new pencils, but the key to success in the classroom when it comes to going back to school can't be bought, according to one Hackensack University Medical Center pediatrician.

A regular sleep schedule is an integral part of academic success, says Pakkay Ngai, M.D., a Pediatric Pulmonologist at the Institute for Sleep Work Disorders at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center.

"Starting the new school year is a time of excitement for children as well as parents. For some, it’s also a time of anxiety," Ngai said.

"Switching from a summer to a school schedule can be stressful to everyone in the household, especially when children have not been on a regular sleep schedule during the summer vacation season."

Ngai recommends the following:

  • Begin transitioning to a school-time sleep schedule at least a week before the start of school.
  • Maintain a consistent sleep/wake schedule, allowing for a difference of no more than one hour with weekday versus weekend bedtimes and waking times.
  • A child’s bedroom should be a cool, dark, and quiet place.
  • The bed should not be used as a place for study/work; it should be for sleep only. Limit the use of electronics at bedtime as light emanating from these devices disrupts the timing of our body clock.
  • Make sleep as much a priority as school and extracurricular activities. The goal should be 9 to 11 hours for grade school children and 8 to 10 hours for teenagers.

Ngai also recommends practicing a back-to-school routine a few days in advance of the first day of school to avoid extra stress.

Set the alarm clock, have children go through the morning rituals of eating breakfast, getting dressed, and getting in the car or to the bus stop on time.

Establishing solid routines helps children feel more comfortable and will help the first day of school to go much smoother, the physician said.

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