Updated 11 March 2014

Back-to-school commotion

After the school holidays some students find it hard to return to their normal routine with “with renewed energy and a fresh focus” on the work that lies ahead.


After the school holidays some students find it hard to return to their normal routine with “with renewed energy and a fresh focus” on the work that lies ahead. This is mostly caused by:

  • Odd eating habits - (snacking, no formal meal times).
  • Casual sleeping patterns.
  • Fitness levels
  • Nutrition /diet
  • Depression

Holidays are a wonderful time for children, as they aren’t expected to wake up early in morning or eat at set times. This generally causes changes in their strength, diet and nutrition

Professional judgment on the problem

Dr Ingrid van Heerden, Health24’s DietDoc says that everybody should have standard, healthy meals every day because it keeps them from developing irregular cravings, which can be worse when it comes to children.

“If children on holiday skip meals and/or replace balanced meals with snacks and take-away foods, their diet will be unbalanced and they run the risk of not only being exposed to high intakes of food additives (e.g. colourants, flavourings and preservatives that can trigger hyperactivity), but also fluctuating blood sugar levels. The human brain needs a constant steady supply of blood glucose to function properly,” she said.

Even though this behaviour is common amongst children, not every child is like that. Parents can also control their children’s diets and get them over holiday cravings. This might be difficult, but Dr van Heerden says, “If possible, children should be left in the care of a responsible adult or attend a holiday school where regular meals, consisting of plain, wholesome foods are served at regular intervals and highly coloured, flavoured snacks, foods and cold drinks are unavailable.”

“Keep them very busy, so that there is no chance that they might get bored and turn to chips, sweets and cold drinks, and TV, for entertainment. Playing games or sport outside in the fresh air is a healthy way of keeping young people occupied.”

Dr Rosman, a sleep specialist, says that teenagers’ NORMAL pattern is to go to bed late and get up late. “This is called a ‘sleep phase shift’. What is abnormal are the times we expect them to be getting up.”

Studies in the USA showed an average increase in students’ marks of 7% when the school day was started an hour later.

“In other words, most school kids are getting too little sleep during the week, and actually use the weekends and holidays to catch up! Obviously, schools aren’t going to change their starting times, so it’s up to parents and students to manage the term-time week nights and ensure that teens are getting 8 hours of sleep for at least three nights in a row”, he said.

Dr Rosman also mentioned that this is a parental issue; therefore parents should be managing their children’s sleeping patterns.

Tips on how to deal with this problem

According to, single parents, in order to make sure their child is getting adequate sleep on a regular basis, need to keep the bedtime routine fairly consistent.

Here are the tips they suggest:


  • Spend some time unwinding with a quiet activity 30 minutes before starting their bedtime   routine. 
  • Be consistent. The routine should be the same night-to-night, so that your child learns to anticipate sleep as part of the routine. 
  • Include bath time in your regular routine, as the soothing warmth will help prepare your child's body for rest. 
  • Impose reasonable consequences if your child refuses to go to sleep.


  • Make TV part of the bedtime routine.
  • Offer caffeinated sodas with dinner.
  • Allow frequent interruptions to the bedtime routine.
  • Make lying down together or rocking your child to sleep a regular part of the bedtime routine.
  • Use thick blankets, quilts, stuffed animals, or pillows in your infant's crib.
  • Pick your child up if he or she continues to call for you or fights going to sleep. Instead, simply reassure him or her that you're nearby.

(Health24, Ncumisa Magadla, July 2011)

Read more:

Lack of exercise = lack of energy

Back to school without a fuss

Sources parents.


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