Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Early to bed, early to rise

If school starts before Labor Day for the kids in your house and they’ve been staying up late and sleeping in all summer, your family could be in for a rude awakening next week.

To get kids ready for morning bus rides and classes, it’s wise to get them on an early-to-bed, early-to-rise schedule well before the first day of school.

I know it’s hard, especially when it’s still light out after 8 p.m., and many kids have sports and other evening activities. But the National Sleep Foundation advises sending kids to bed earlier each night for two weeks before the first day of school. At the same time, you should nudge them out of bed earlier in the morning. An incremental shift, over two weeks’ time, is the best way to help them be rested and ready to learn when school begins.

For those of you in Spotsylvania, whose classes start next week, that means you should start adjusting your sleep/wake schedule now, if you haven’t already. Those in the city and other counties, whose classes start after Labor Day, shouldn’t wait much longer to get on a good schedule.

Sleep deprivation is serious business, and you can read more about it in a Healthy Living column this Sunday by Dr. Christopher Lillis, who’s been struggling with some sleep debt of his own lately.

I happen to plan on a fatigue-induced meltdown from my kids on Friday afternoon during the first week of school. Even if you’ve been gearing up, the transition can be exhausting.

On a related note, I think we’d be giving teens’ health a massive boost if we started school later in the morning. As I read on earlier this year, “Many high school students live in what Dr. Mary Carskadon calls a continuous state of jet lag.” (Carskadon is a sleep researcher.)

Here’s a link to that piece, in case you’re curious about teens, sleep and school start times: