Plan ahead to ‘rise and shine’ for the first day of school
Students soon will leave behind the lazy summer days and go back to school, leaping — or crawling — out of bed when that early alarm clock goes off.
It can be a shock to the system — especially for adolescents, whose natural sleep pattern tends to be late to bed, late to rise, says Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts & Sciences.
But regardless of age, “What you find in the research is that the more variable your schedule, the worse your cognition is going to be,” he said. And that’s a minus for students shooting for good grades.
What to do?
1. Don’t put off getting back into a normal schedule.
“If you go to bed after midnight on Sunday before class starts, it’s going to be a tough Monday,” Scullin said. “It’s very hard to shift your schedule overnight, so parents need to start imposing that a few days early.”
2. Ditch the bright lights.
“Phones, tablets, laptops, television . . . It’s hard to get those completely out of the post-dinner schedule, but you don’t want to be crawling into bed with the phone. And if there are bright lights outside, you might block them out with blackout curtains.”
3. Aim for quiet.
Whether the sound is from a nearby airport, busy road or snoring roommate, it can disturb a sound snooze. “Earplugs are a good, inexpensive solution,” Scullin said.
4. Consider banishing that beloved pet from the bed.
The pup, twitching and whimpering as he chases dream rabbits, can be disruptive; so can the cat who claims dead center of the bed, leaving her human clinging to the edge. “You can’t just kick them out and expect them to not be upset, but you can get them a bed of their own and be firm about it,” Scullin said.
5. Cut out the caffeine by late afternoon and don’t chow down late in the day.
“Even some grade-school individuals go to Starbucks for an afternoon treat,” Scullin said. “And a heavy meal isn’t great for sleep. Research shows that food high in saturated fats interferes with quality sleep. Foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats are better.”
6. Write away your worries.
“A lot of students have anxiety about school, both from the academic side and the social side,” Scullin said. “Anxiety can interfere with good sleep. For insomnia, some cognitive behavior therapists recommend listing in a journal everything you’re worried about.”
What about a reward for doing all of the above and achieving good sleep habits?
“When I sleep well, I feel rewarded,” Scullin said. “I attribute that to sleep.”