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Start Kids On School Sleep Schedule Now, Experts Say

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - With a few weeks left before the start of a new school year, sleep experts say now is the time to get kids back on an earlier sleep schedule. "Everybody thinks about it on the Friday before school starts the Tuesday after Labor Day and it's a little late then," said Dr. Heidi Connolly, chief of pediatric sleep medicine at UR Medicine. Getting enough sleep is especially tough for high school students, who have to start the day much earlier than their natural body clock would like. Several local school districts have considered pushing back the start of the school day, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but no changes have been put in place yet. In the meantime, Dr. Connolly says there are things students can do to improve their sleep. They include waking up at close to the same time every day, getting ample amounts of exercise and bright light exposure, especially early the day. Those habits, she said, will help kids feel sleepier by bedtime.  It's also important to avoid activities that promote wakefulness an or two before going to sleep, such as screen time and drinking caffeinated beverages. Dr. Connolly recommends that kids start going to bed a bit earlier each night so they're aligned with their new schedule by the time school starts. "If you have a teenager who's going to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning and waking up around noon and they need to get up at 6 to get on the bus for the start of school, that's like having five or six hours of jet lag that they need to adjust before the start of school." Studies have shown that sleep deprived students are at risk for both health and academic problems.