The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 31, 2013

Early rising helps kids handle days better

By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — Does it matter whether your child is a morning person? It might be more important than you think. There's no denying that a good night's sleep is critical to your children's success in school, but whether they spring out of bed at the crack of dawn or prefer sleeping late into the morning also can play a role in how they function during the day, according to Missy Heilbrun, a Project Hope counselor with Joplin Schools.

"The kids that are sleepy, like they just rolled out of bed, have trouble keeping their attention. They don't have the best attitude, and they're just not ready for learning," she said. "Kids who get up early ... they come to school ready to learn. They just come more prepared."

Annie Nawab, director of the sleep lab at Mercy Hospital, said several hormones related to a body's growth are released during sleep. The best way to ensure that happens is to get children to bed early at night and up early in the morning, she said.

"Early to bed and early to rise does affect the overall well-being of the child, so this is not only an old wives' tale," she said.

According to Forbes magazine, people who wake up early are more likely to:

To help your children adjust to rising early, set a consistent bedtime Ñ generally by 10 p.m., which would allow them to get the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep before the start of school the following morning, Nawab said.

She also said to remove televisions, computers and phones from their bedroom. The light emitted from those devices can delay their sleep, making for a rough morning.

"Staying up late shifts their brain, and their brain will not be ready to work at 7 in the morning," she said. "That is the reason they perform poorly (in school). When their early-morning classes come, their brains are still sleeping; when their brain starts waking up, it's time to go back home."

It also might be a good idea not to allow children to sleep until the last minute in the morning, as parents sometimes are wont to do, said Jeff Keener, director of respiratory services at Freeman Health System.

Instead, parents should try to give their children enough time to completely wake up in the morning before being sent to school to allow them to prepare for the day ahead, he said.

"My dad would get me up a good 45 minutes before I needed to really start getting ready so I could kind of acclimate to the day and have time to get myself together and eat a good breakfast," he said, "not going feet-on-the-floor and 'full speed ahead' right out of the gate."

But in the end, whether your child likes to wake up early or sleep past noon might be a moot point, Keener said. Although most schools and businesses operate during daytime hours, many evening and night classes or work shifts exist, he said.

This creates a variety of schedules conducive to whatever sleep pattern your child prefers Ñ and it's the sleep that ultimately counts, he said.

"I don't think it matters whether you're a late riser or an early riser," he said. "You still need a certain amount of sleep."