Children accustomed to staying up until 7am during the summer holidays will struggle to remain awake in class when school resumes next week.
Many youngsters are lethargic and inattentive in school because their parents let them stay up too late, particularly during Ramadan, say teachers.
Khawla Al Alawi, who teaches at Moza bin Butti School in Al Shahama, said many pupils could barely stay awake in class in the first few days of term.
“Fifty per cent of children are awake and energetic, while the other half are very quiet, almost sleeping. Usually, what I notice is many pupils are not getting enough sleep. I have pupils who suffer in class, they try to stay awake but I see their eyes shutting,” she said.
“Some pupils have a hard time grasping this new routine, and they don’t realise the changes that need to be made to fix their sleeping pattern. Many pupils also preserve their regular eating and sleeping pattern throughout the year.”
Ms Al Alawi said such behaviour was considered natural after long holidays, especially as some children were unenthusiastic about returning to school.
“In the morning classes, the pupils are quiet and lethargic. By break time their energy levels are restored because they meet their friends,” she said.
She said it was up to parents to make sure their children maintained sensible sleep patterns in the school holidays.
Ms Al Alawi also makes sure classes are less academic when the school year starts.
“We have to have fun activities to raise the enthusiasm in class. We don’t give long explanations but instead focus more on having conversations. This will ensure a better outcome in the coming year and encourage and motivate the pupils to a strong start,” she said.
Umm Ahmad, who has four children, said it was difficult to persuade them to go to bed early now after being up late during holidays.
Hher children usually stay up late with their cousins and they don’t want to sleep “when they know the other children will be watching movies and playing all night long”.
She said: “During Ramadan, the whole family would stay up. But my children are still staying up until the early mornings. When I wake up, that is when they go to sleep, almost 7am.”
She is worried their sleeping habits will have an effect on their health.
“They sleep in the morning so they miss their breakfast. Then they wake up late in the afternoon, at 5pm, and they eat a huge meal to compensate. They also eat a lot of junk food since the adults are not around to tell them not to,” she said.
Before school starts, Umm Ahmad plans strenuous activities throughout the day for her elder children, who are 5 and 8, to burn off energy.
“If I wake them earlier in the afternoon, maybe by 1pm, and take them horse riding and swimming it will surely get them tired and hungry. Once fed they will go to sleep earlier,” she said.
In the next summer holidays she will try to keep a closer eye on her children’s sleep patterns.
Fatma Al Mansoori, 33, also a mother of four, does not allow her children to stay up late at any time of the year.
“I don’t allow them to go to sleep late because I naturally don’t like staying up late. The only time we all stay up is in Ramadan when the entire household is sleeping late usually after Fajr prayers. But then the routine goes back to normal,” she said.
Ms Al Mansoori’s eldest son, who is 12, already knows that as school is starting soon he must get in the habit of going to to bed and waking up early.
“He fixes his own schedule and the others do the same. They either sleep at about the same time or I let them sleep when they please but wake them up early,” she said.
She believes her children will be healthier if they have a decent night’s sleep.