Getting ready to go back to school: Go to bed earlier

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LEWISTON — Summer means later nights for most students, including the St. Hilaire sisters, Camree, 13, Bailee, 10, and Toree, 8.

“I go to bed whenever,” Camree said.

Her sister Toree said when with friends, she’d like to stay up “all night.” She said she enjoys staying up until 11 p.m. But her mother, Angie, insists on a 9:30 p.m. bedtime.

When Bailee climbs into bed between 9:10 and 10 p.m., she often checks her texts and Instagrams.

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With school starting Wednesday, bedtime will come earlier.

Principals and teachers recommend students – with help from parents – start sleep training tonight or this weekend.

Go to bed earlier, Lewiston Middle School Principal Jake Langlais said.

Experts recommend a week of earlier bedtimes to help youngsters transition from summer vacation to school. Langlais said there are benefits even with three days of earlier bedtimes.

Getting several days of an earlier-to-bed pattern achieves several things, Langlais said.

“Basically, cognitively, your brain works better when it’s had a consistent pattern of rest,” he said. “Eight hours of sleep is one thing, but (sleeping) midnight to 8 is different than 8 to 5. You need to change the pattern for a few days in a row to get benefits.” 

Those benefits include a better memory and clearer thinking, Langlais said. “There are so many things to take in” on the first few days of school, from where’s the bathroom, the cafeteria, to what needs to be done for tomorrow’s classes.

In addition to going to bed earlier, Langlais challenged students to take two or three mornings to rehearse.

“When you get up, go through your routine like you’re coming to school,” he recommended. “Get yourself dressed. Take a shower. Eat breakfast, do the things you would do next Wednesday, even though you’re not waiting for a bus or getting a ride to school.”

By going through the drill, “you’ll know how long it’s going to take you so you’re not late that first week,” he said. “You’ll know what obstacles exist a few days before school.”

Once up, don’t turn on the television, Langlais said. “Read the paper. Read. Get that flow back of the learning environment.”

In James and Becca Belleau’s home, the earlier-to-bed rules began in August for their four children: Elizabeth, 3, a pre-K student at McMahon; Anna, 10, in fifth grade at Martel; and Michael, 12, and James Belleau II, 14, students at Lewiston Middle School.

Becca Belleau is a Longley Elementary School teacher who’s been in the back-to-school mode for several weeks, getting her classroom ready. She’s shared the back-to-school vibe with her children.

“Even last night I said: ‘It’s 9 o’clock. OK, everyone in bed. Let’s go!’”

It takes a few days to get the household into the new rhythm, she said. Belleau recommends turning off all electronics 30 minutes before bed.

She said her doctor explained that the light from a television, iPad or cellphone can interfere with preparing for good sleep. One method to pry the devices from the hands of youngsters is to make a habit of charging them at night in a different location than the bedrooms, Belleau said.

Students who haven’t changed their sleep habits ahead of time may get to school on time, Langlais said, but may not be alert enough for the rigors of school.

“Showing up and showing up ready to learn are two very different things,” he said.

bwashuk@sunmedia.com

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