If you've let your children stay up later than normal all summer, it's time to wean them back into a sleep routine as the new school year approaches.

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Dr. Matthew Davis, a neurologist and sleep specialist at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, suggested setting earlier bedtimes in increments.

"Do it gradually. Do it 15 minutes every couple days, or if you need to be a little more aggressive, every half an hour every couple days," said Davis.

Once a child's sleep schedule is established, Davis stressed the importance of sticking to a strict schedule, especially with younger school-aged children.

"Even giving your kid an extra hour to stay up really can interfere with their daytime functioning and behavior, and it can actually be quite dramatic sometimes," Davis said.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least nine hours of shut-eye for children ages 6 to 12, and at least eight hours for those 13 and up.

Davis pointed out that parents shouldn't worry so much about the amount of time a child sleeps, because every kid is different.

"What's adequate for some kids, may not be for others, so focusing so much on how long they're sleeping based on a certain guideline is not as important as how much your kids need," he noted.

In addition to being consistent with a sleep schedule, establishing a bedtime routine also is important and should include relaxing activities, according to Davis.

"Do something. Reading a book or something like that, that does not involve a lot of stimulation," said Davis. That means limiting television, video games and other electronic devices.

"There's no question that the use of electronics, particularly anything with bright light, actually physiologically affects the brain. It pushes your sleep cycle later, so that should definitely be avoided right before bed," Davis said.

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