Summer is winding down and soon it will be time to get back to school (some districts are already back in session). The late nights of watching movies, playing video games, and simply staying up past regular bedtimes are over! Well-rested children with appropriate amounts of sleep will be better prepared to listen and learn. They are also less likely to have behavior concerns at school. How can you get your kids back on track with a consistent sleep schedule? The following five tips are designed to set your child up for success.
1. Try to keep bedtime and wake up time the same all throughout the year.
Everyone has an internal clock that is set by exposure to light and regulated by hormones (it’s called your circadian rhythm). Sleep experts recommend keeping a consistent bedtime and wake up time daily throughout the year, so following your body’s natural clock is important. Think about how awful you feel when you are jet-lagged. The same thing happens to your child when they start fighting their internal clock and stay up late. Even if they sleep in the morning after and sleep for their usual number of hours, they won’t get quality sleep. (If you’re reading this and saying, “it’s too late!” just keep this in mind for weekends, vacations and next summer)
2. If your child is off their sleep schedule, get back into their routine as soon as possible.
About one to two weeks before school starts, gradually have your child going to bed earlier and earlier – start with 15-30 minutes per night. You might also need to wake them up earlier and earlier each day, so they are tired enough to fall asleep earlier that night. Make sure they stay active during the day and avoid naps and caffeine.
3. Return to the “No Electronics at Bedtime” rule.
Glowing light from digital devices and television screens turn off melatonin release, the hormone that helps initiate sleep. Be sure to turn off the screens between 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics says skip TVs in the bedroom for children of all ages. Studies show that kids with a TV in their room will have an overall decreased amount of sleep compared to their peers without a TV in the room.
4. Create and maintain a consistent bedtime routine.
The best way to get kids to drift off to sleep, especially for the little ones, is to have a consistent routine that is calming and relaxing. A good approach is called “The 4 B’s of Bedtime”: Bath, Brush (teeth), Book and Bed. For older children, spend time reading, listening to music, or talking together. It’s a nice opportunity to catch up and chill out before bedtime.
5. Make sure your child has a sleep-friendly environment.
If we’re still experiencing heat waves when school reopens, leave the air conditioning on, or use a fan to cool off your child’s room. It may also still be light out so close the blinds and consider black out shades if the room doesn’t get dark at your child’s bedtime.