Back-to-School: Getting Your Kid’s Sleep Schedule Back on Track

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A young boy yawning at school because he has a poor sleep schedule

With summer vacation coming to an end, so are the nights of staying up late and sleeping in. Experts know that sleep is vital to school performance. Adequate sleep can help your child concentrate. On the other hand, not getting enough sleep can contribute to behavior problems.

Now is time to get your little ones ready for school and back into the healthy sleep schedule. Elaine Cudnik, APRN shares some tips on how to make it happen:

Gradually shift bedtimes back

If your child has been staying up late this summer their internal clock is out of sync. In order to create a sleep schedule, we suggest gradually moving back your child’s bedtime by a half hour each night, a week or two before school starts, until your child is back to their normal bedtime. For most school aged children (six-to-12 years of age), an appropriate bedtime is between 7:30 and 9 p.m.

Start a bedtime routine

Kids do better when they know what to expect, so try to maintain a bedtime routine. Prepare your child for sleep by picking a soothing activity and make it part of your nightly routine. Good ideas include reading a favorite book, taking a warm bath or shower, or listening to peaceful music.  In addition, sleep experts recommend consistency in bedtimes, even on the weekends. Allow no more than two hours of “wiggle room”—this means you can let your child stay up an hour later and sleep in an hour more on weekends, but not much more!

No electronics before bedtime

Turn off all electronic devices at least one hour before you put your child to bed. This means no TV, smart phones, tablets or computers. Encourage the whole family to leave their electronics at a charging station in a common area. Avoid charging electronics in the bedroom – even the minimal light emitted by these devices while charging is known to disrupt sleep cycles.

Make your child’s room a “sleep sanctuary”

Keep the lights low, the temperature comfortable/cool and the room as quiet as possible.

Avoid caffeine

Studies have shown that caffeine can stay in your system for eight to 10 hours and disrupt your child’s ability to have a restful sleep. Encourage your child to avoid caffeine after lunch to prevent sleep disruption.

Exercise

Kids who are active during the day are more likely to have a restful sleep.

Make your mornings a little brighter

Studies have shown that we respond best to waking with the sun. A lack of sunlight can actually inhibit your body’s ability to make melatonin, the natural chemical that helps to regulate sleep. When it is time to get your child ready for school, open the blinds and let the sun shine in!

Practice what you preach

While kids need more sleep (10 to 11 hours) than adults (eight or more hours), we can certainly lead by example. Create a “back to school sleep schedule” for the whole family to ensure success for everyone!

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