Summer is a time we loosen the rules a bit to enjoy BBQs, the pool and beach, family vacations and visitors. And with longer days and light lasting later into the evening, it also often means missed naps for the little ones, and later bedtimes all around. It may feel too early to begin thinking about back to school, but as we head into the last month of summer, it’s important to have an early plan about getting back on schedule before the first day. These tips also are great for those kiddos entering school for the first time.
Nixing the Screens
It’s advisable to stay away from blue light near bedtime. Scientists suggest that “blue light,” or blue-wavelength light, suppresses melatonin production for up to two-times as long as other light wavelengths. That’s why it’s a good idea to steer-clear of televisions, and especially smart phones and tablets, for at least 90 minutes leading up to bedtime. Researchers also found blue light prevented body temperature from dropping during the night, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
Routine, Routine, Routine
The most important piece of getting prepared to return to school is ensuring a solid and consistent bedtime routine. A good routine is always recommended, but if you’ve fallen off track over summer break, it’s a good idea to re-implement a stringent routine at least a week before the school year begins. Over-tiredness in both children and adults triggers the stress hormone cortisol. In addition to making it much harder to fall asleep, being over-tired also almost guarantees disrupted sleep throughout the night, whether you and your child are aware of it or not. It can also cause us to wake too early or wake or face challenges settling back to sleep at night wakings.
A good bedtime routine is predictable, calming and consistent. First, you should set a specific time for bedtime that stays the same each night (hint: an ideal bedtime is likely earlier than you think). Before the routine begins, give your child a warning that we are winding down the day and will begin our nightly activities. If your child likes an evening snack, it’s a good idea to offer something light that includes a balance of carbohydrates and protein like apple slices and a yogurt or cheese stick. Next, the routine likely includes a warm bath and/or brushing teeth. Lastly, you can do a quiet activity in the bedroom like reading a couple stories or singing a favorite lullaby. The bedroom portion of the routine should last no longer than 15 minutes and room darkening shades and a noise machine can be turned on at this time. Keep the “good nights” short and exit without fanfare.
What if my Child is Starting Kindergarten but Still Naps?
Starting full-day Kindergarten is an adjustment on many fronts. Children who are still napping or having quiet time in the afternoon may have a bit of a tougher time adjusting to their new daily schedule. Leading up to the first day, it is a good idea to talk with your child about what to expect. Likely, your child’s school will still offer some period of quiet time during the day. Make sure to ask your child’s teacher about the schedule and check in with your little one the first week about how they’re energy is holding up throughout the day. If your child still naps solidly day to day, it is not necessary to give up nap before school begins to get them used to it. Additionally, it is still a good idea to have him/her nap on the weekends. And if you expect your soon to be kindergartner to have a tough time with losing the daytime rest, you may consider incrementally moving bedtime earlier each night.
As always, if you find yourself needing help with a solid bedtime routine and schedule, reach out to hear more about our services!