No more Zzz’s: How to wake up for back-to-school Monday

08/17/2012 5:00 AM

08/19/2012 3:02 PM

Michael Tamayo has been playing Max Payne 3 on his Xbox 360 until 3 a.m. all summer vacation.

The 13-year-old eighth-grader at Hialeah Middle School won’t have that freedom come Monday when he has to wake up at 8 for the 9 a.m. school bell.

With the first day of school a few days away, students like Michael are being forced to adjust their sleep cycles.

“Once Monday comes, he is not going to see his Xbox after 8 p.m.,” said Rosa Tamayo, his grandmother. “It’s time for him to focus on what’s important — school.”

For some, the transition back into the school routine will be simple. Others will have a harder time adjusting to a proper cycle with the recommended 9 to 10 hours of sleep.

Dr. William C. Kohler, medical director of Florida Sleep Institute, has been studying sleep patterns for over 40 years and finds that a child’s sleep schedule can take several weeks to adjust.

“Every child is different in how their circadian rhythm resets,” Kohler said. “Bright light is generally the best way to reset one’s biological clock.”

Kohler recommends turning on lamps, opening the shades and getting outside so the body escapes its darkest hours quickly.

For those looking for a little internal help, try prepping the night before with melatonin before bedtime. Melatonin, a natural calming hormone, is sold as over-the-counter pills. And Starbucks is fine for the morning jolt, but downing caffeine from noon on is a no-no, when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the experts say.

Dr. Kohler also suggests that creating a wind-down period 30 minutes before bedtime encourages proper sleep habits. Chill. Relax. Read. No Xboxes.

“Adjusting a sleeping pattern is not about going to sleep two hours early on the night before school starts,” Dr. Kohler said. “It is an overall commitment to continue a long-term sleep routine.”

Eduardo Cruz, both a parent and teacher at Palm Springs Middle School in Hialeah, suggests students get off Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter and do their homework instead.

“It isn’t only about getting more sleep,” Cruz said. “It’s about students changing their habits and routine altogether.”

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