Back to School: Is your child at risk for a sleep syndrome?

Back To School

WILLMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) – Getting push back, trying to get your student out of bed? Missed the school bus? Falling asleep in class?

Signs when school starts, your child could have delayed sleep phase syndrome – DSPS.

“You can get the body up but the mind isn’t awake and it’s not alert,” says sleep specialist Dr. Robert Bundy.

That’s due to the internal sleep clock shifting, delayed by at least two hours.

He says, “As these individuals evolve, they start to go to bed, later and later and later but they also sleep later into the morning.”

Dr. Bundy is the Medical Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Windham Hospital.

He says it’s not clear what causes DSPS, but he frequently hears this from parents with so called night owls, “Oh my son or daughter, they just can’t fall asleep. And they can’t get up in the morning. And they’re tired all day but then at night they are much more awake and alert, and what’s wrong?”

Dr. Bundy says a laxed sleep/wake pattern when school is out makes things worse, “If you went from one that you normally go to sleep at 10:00 pm and in the summer months you went to sleep at 12:00 am, not too bad. That’s two hours. You can struggle and do it. But if you went to bed at 10 and you’re going to bed at 2:00 to 3:00 am, that magnifies the difficulty by which you have to get back to a normal sleep/wake pattern.”

Teens and adolescents he says are generally more at risk for DSPS, “There’s a level of maturity right? We’re talking here as adults trying to figure out what the best approach is because we’re concerned and we want to do it, whereas when you’re younger, you’re vulnerable. I can do this. And I’ll be okay.”

So, what can be done for treatment?

He answers, “There is no pill. There’s no quick fix.”

Dr. Bundy prescribes two potential solutions.

“You can either gradually back your clock back so that you’re getting up 15 to 30 minutes earlier every one to two weeks or 10 days. The other way is you could go on the opposite direction. You stay up around the clock and then you get on the time you should be doing it and then you have to adhere to it.”

Sticking to it he says does the body good, “You try to get back to the purest of sleep behavior principles and by doing that and wanting to do it, you really, typically succeed.”

Dr. Bundy says bright light therapy can also help as well as the supplement: melatonin.

The best thing a parent can do is try to keep a child on a normal sleep pattern as much as possible throughout the year.

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