Get Your Kids Healthy Back to School Sleep
The endless lazy summer days filled with family, sun, surf, and sand is fantastic. But it can also take away your family’s usual sleep routine. For two months, bedtimes are pushed out later, and morning lay-ins are the norm. It’s not surprising that when kids head back to school sleep has been missed, and children struggle to get back into their routine—and everyone feels it.
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Here are my top 8 tips for helping kids transition from summer to school and get back into a healthy back to school sleep routine.
- Make sleep a priority. And be clear about it with your kids.
When you consistently communicate the importance of anything with your children, they develop a better understanding of why changes need to happen. Instead of just telling your child that they need to go to bed, try explaining why they need to go to bed. Ask them the questions – “How do you feel when you’ve had a good night of sleep?” and “How do you feel when you haven’t had a good night of sleep?” Explain to your child how happy you are when you are able to spend time with them at bedtime, especially when it’s a peaceful experience, and how great mom and dad feel when you are well rested too. Opening communication about the importance of back to school sleep and making it a priority in your home will help establish a healthy relationship between sleep and your child that they will continue to have as adults.
- Understand how much sleep your child needs
In order to ensure your child is getting enough sleep, parents need to understand the age-appropriate sleep needs of their children. In February, 2015, The National Sleep Foundation recommended new nightly sleep durations for all ages:
Preschoolers (3-5): Average sleep time – 10-13 hours per night. I recommend an age appropriate bedtime of 7-7:30pm.
School age children (6-13): Average sleep time – 9-11 hours per night. I recommend an age appropriate bedtime of 8-8:30 pm.
Teenagers (14-17): Average sleep time – 8-10 hours. I recommend encouraging bedtime starting at 9:30-10pm. Bedtime would depend on school start time or morning activities.
- Don’t just talk the talk. Be a role model.
Summertime usually means your own sleep schedule has likely been neglected along with your kids. So it’s important that you also make changes to get back on your own sleep track. When your children witness you making those changes, they’ll be more willing to follow suit.
- Reset your child’s internal clock
You can do this by getting them back to appropriate bedtimes – consistently. Get them into their school routine ahead of time by having your child go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day – on the same schedule they’ll have once they go back to school. Even on weekends, you shouldn’t stray more than an hour or so from bedtime.
And for little ones entering their first year of school – it can be extra exhausting for their little bodies. So for the first month or so, I recommend making sure bedtime is nice and early, perhaps earlier than usual, until they’ve adjusted to their new routine.
- Bring back the bedtime routine
Begin implementing your consistent bedtime routine with enough time for it to be a relaxed experience. Not only does a consistent routine prepare your child for sleep, it allows you and your child to have some quality one-on-one time that often gets lost in the mad dash of your day-to-day.
Try switching up your child’s usual bedtime story with colouring! Colouring with your child at bedtime is a great opportunity to connect with your little one after a busy day and ask those open-ended questions that will likely get you more of a response then the usual “good” and “fine.”
- Turn technology off
An hour before bedtime, it’s time to wind down stimulating activities, like TV, computer games, and Internet usage. Screen time can make it hard for children (and parents!) to calm down before bed and cause sleep problems. Keep tech out of the bedrooms and instead create a family docking station where everyone can plug in overnight.
- Avoid caffeine
Watch your child’s caffeine intake throughout the day. Avoid soda, chocolate, and ice tea in the late afternoon and at dinnertime.
- Keep it up all year long
Between homework, sports, activities and parents wanting to spend time with their kids, it can be tough to keep on track with healthy sleep routines. Here are a few steps you can take during the school year to make sure your child remains well-rested and not over-scheduled:
- Schedule your child’s extra activities carefully. If evenings are tough and rushed, then opt for a weekend class where your child will feel more rested taking it and you won’t be rushed to get there.
- Watch for signs of burnout. Watch your child’s participation during their activities. Yawning and dragging their feet can be signs that they’re tired.
- It’s okay to have one day off. Try to choose one day on the weekend, for instance, to be your family’s day off. Don’t schedule any activities, hang out with the kids, and have some quality bonding time. They need a day to relax before the week starts up again, and so do the parents.
Alanna McGinn is a Certified Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site – a Global Pediatric and Family Sleep Team. She provides free child and family sleep support through her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She invites you to join her sleep community as she works towards Good Night Sleep Site’s mission of a healthier rested family unit. For more sleep tips please visit Good Night Sleep Site. Join our movement and #BringBackBedtime.