For most children, summertime means enjoying a more flexible schedule, staying up later than normal, sleeping in and extended play. However, as we approach the new school year, letting your little ones stay up later than usual can come with a price. For many children, this means sleepy mornings and increased irritability for the first few weeks of school as parents struggle to get them to bed on time.
So, let’s be proactive and create a better sleep environment and situation for our entire family. It starts with the transition to get your child back into a bedtime routine. By starting the transition now (even before your back to school shopping) you can ensure that your child, and YOU, are prepared for an earlier bedtime, an earlier wake up time and a refreshed body and brain for a full day of learning.
Here are eight simple tips to help your child ease into his or her school-time sleep schedule and to maintain healthy sleep habits throughout the year:
- About two weeks before school starts, work with your child to return to a school appropriate sleep schedule. Every night, set an incrementally earlier bedtime, and every morning, an incrementally earlier wake-up time. Make sure that when school starts, he or she has enough sleep for the day based on their age group (https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0) and their personal needs.
- Maintain a successful sleep schedule. Once your child’s sleep schedule is established, stick with it! Don’t use the weekend to “catch up on sleep” and remember this is a health habit, not just a “bed time”.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Before bedtime, start a “quiet time” to allow your child to unwind. The routine should include relaxing activities, such as a bath and a bedtime story (for young children) or a reading time (for older children).
- Limit television, video games, and other electronic distractions at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid big meals close to bedtime. A heavy meal may cause activation of wakefulness and prevent your child from falling or staying asleep.
- Avoid caffeine. Sodas and other caffeinated drinks should be limited after noon, and especially at night. A good rule of thumb is to avoid any caffeine six hours before bedtime, as the caffeine can interrupt your child’s natural sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep.
- Maintain a peaceful bedroom environment. A comfortable bed, dark and cool (68 degrees or lower) room all foster sleep. Electronic distractions like smartphones, television, computers, or video games should be removed from your child’s room and moved to a different location.
- Be a role model. Set a good example for your child. Establish your own regular sleep cycle and behaviors. Maintain a home that promotes sleep as a major factor for health, wellbeing and success.
The sooner your child readjusts their sleep-schedule to cope with school, the better he or she will feel, and the better they will learn and perform. Feeling fully rested and excited for the day, your child (and your family) will have the best year yet!
“Back to School Sleep Tips”; National Sleep Foundation; sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/back-school-sleep-tips-0