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4 easy tips to get your kids back on a sleep schedule

Aug. 27, 2014 at 11:44 AM ET

It’s back-to-school time, but all your kids want to do is go back to bed. And it’s no wonder: After a summer of staying up late and sleeping in, it’s hard to adjust to a stricter routine, especially for children.

Still, it’s important they get back on track as classes start because lack of sleep will cause problems with academic performance, said Dr. Carol Ash, director of sleep medicine at Meridian Health.

Video: Dr. Carol Ash joins TODAY to offer tips on how to break free of carefree summer schedules and get back into a regular sleep schedule.

“Kids are more sensitive to sleep loss. They have different physiology,” Ash told TODAY’s Willie Geist and Al Roker on Wednesday.

“You might say, ‘What’s the big deal? Why don’t they just go to bed earlier?’ It’s harder for kids to actually go to bed earlier because they have a slower response to normal sleep cues.”

Kids need more sleep than adults, so it’s recommended they slumber for 9-10 hours per night, compared to 7-8 hours for grown-ups, Ash said.

In a TODAY.com poll, just 37 percent of respondents said their children get that optimum amount of sleep.

To help kids get back into a school routine, Ash offered these tips:

Adjust bedtime by 15 minutes per night — this will gradually get them closer to their ideal sleep schedule. Make it a family effort.

Enforce an electronics curfew — it takes children an hour to wind down to sleep, but most now have smartphones and other gadgets that allow them to text or play games late at night. Try to have them unplug at least an hour before bed.

Apply the 4-7-8 breathing technique — to help the body relax, tell your child to breathe in for a count of four, then hold for a count of seven and release for a count of eight. Repeat four times before going to bed (and do the same in the morning).

Add fun to bedtime — read a book and create an environment that kids want to go to at night. Fun touches can include hand-painted light bulbs or glow-in-the-dark paint, which can be used to write secret messages your children will see when the lights go out.

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