Sleep Expert Urges Students to Hit the Sack before the School Bells Ring

Monday, August 20, 2012

As preparations for a new school year get under way, Saint Joseph’s University psychologist and sleep expert Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., reminds parents and kids not to forget the most important school supply of all: sleep.

“We know that sleep is essential for learning,” she explains. “It impacts attention, concentration and memory. Our ability to retain and integrate what we learn today is directly related to the amount of sleep we get tonight.”

As the summer winds down, parents should gradually begin transitioning to a more regular sleep schedule.

“Summer should be a time where schedules are more relaxed and bedtimes are not so stringent,” she says. “But take the time to reset your child’s biological clock a week to two weeks before the first day of classes. Start moving bedtime and wake time earlier, maybe a half an hour a day for several days until they’re closer to their school schedule.”

Mindell says that for some the adjustment can feel like jet lag. Teens are especially at risk since they’re likely to burn the midnight oil and wake up in time for lunch.

“Our teens are going to bed up to five hours later than they were during the last school year and too quick a shift can really cause them to feel off-kilter.”

And with the ever-increasing prominence of electronics in our lives, Mindell says parents and kids alike should “unplug” in the bedroom.

“No one — regardless of age — should be reading e-mail, playing video games or texting in bed,” she says. “Keep the bedroom quiet and dark to ensure optimal sleep.”

Mindell can be reached by phone at 610-660-1806, by e-mail at, or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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