Guest Post by Katy Fleming, MA, LPC, BSN, RN
As summer break comes to an end in a few short weeks, many parents dread the transition back to school. Kiddos often try to fight the early bedtimes and even earlier wake-ups.
A full night of sleep improves children’s focus, memory, energy, and critical thinking skills. All key factors in educational success!
Kick off the school year well-rested with these tips to transition your kids back into a sleep routine.
How to Prep for Your Kids Back to School Sleep Routine
For most families, summertime allows longer evenings and later wake-ups. Your kiddos may enjoy more free time and relaxed days during their break.
Transitioning from the summer fun to an early bedtime routine is often an uphill battle. However, sleep deprivation causes serious issues including low pain tolerance and a decline in learning.
Learn how to smoothly prepare your little ones for back-to-school bedtimes with these evidence-based tips.
Slow and Steady Transition
It’s easy for the new school year to quickly creep up on us. Changing bedtimes and routine cold turkey is a drastic difference for little ones.
Kiddos thrive off of structure and consistency. So when making a significant change, most children benefit from slowly implementing the new routine.
Shift their bedtime by 15 minutes over a few weeks before the first day of school. For example, if they typically go to bed at 8:30 pm, then move it up to 8:15 pm initially. This allows a slow adjustment to the new bedtime and early rise.
Keep in mind that preschool-aged kids require 10-13 hours of sleep per night, school-aged kids need 9-12 hours, and our teens still require 8-10 hours.
Start Your Bedtime Routine Early
Don’t wait until it’s time for their heads to hit the pillow to begin a bedtime routine. In the last hour before it’s time to start getting ready for bed, encourage your little ones to wind down.
Try calming activities such as reading a book together, singing a song, or building a puzzle. Avoid exercise and television within this hour as it leads to over-stimulation. Set the example by engaging in quiet activities as a family.
Encourage your kids to pick their favorite wind-down activity. Providing choices supports their independence while maintaining a routine.
Don’t get discouraged if your child experiences a sleep regression. Continue to work on their bedtime routine and remain consistent.
Implement Healthy Sleeping Habits
Healthy sleeping habits are important for the entire family. Our little ones love mimicking the adults, so they’ll often follow your lead.
Start identifying improvement areas of your family’s sleep routine and create a plan. Consider adding these healthy sleeping habits:
- Avoid any caffeine in the evenings
- Turn off electronics at least one hour before bed
- Use the bed only for sleeping (i.e., don’t play with toys in bed)
- Avoid large meals before bed (stick with a light bedtime snack!)
- Create a safe, comfortable sleeping environment
75% of children keep at least one electronic device in their bedrooms. Your body’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) is highly sensitive to light. The blue light from electronics stimulates the brain and highly impacts your ability to fall asleep.
During the day, find outdoor activities for your kids to encourage sunlight and exercise. Sunlight is helpful for the circadian rhythm. It’s important to avoid exercise in the late afternoon or evening, however.
Teach your children the importance of these healthy habits to promote a sleep routine. It helps to know the “why” behind the new rules.
Try implementing one new sleeping habit at a time to prevent overwhelming the family.
Want to learn more parenting tips? You’ll love these:
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- What Can Your Child Eat Before Surgery?
- 5 Things to Know When Your Baby or Child is Prescribed Antibiotics
Develop a sleep schedule with your little ones in preparation for the new school year. Allowing your kids to choose activities themselves (i.e., shower vs. bath) promotes independence and increases the likelihood of follow-through.
Start adjusting their bedtime a few weeks before school starts by 15 minutes at a time. If your child is continuing to struggle with sleep, contact your pediatrician to discuss treatment options.
Use these tips to promote healthy sleep as your kiddos transition back to school!
As a licensed counselor and registered nurse, Katy approaches freelance writing with years of experience and a unique perspective. Alongside her partner, Katy loves to travel the world and embrace other cultures from volcanoes in Iceland to villages in India.
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The Nozebot is a battery-powered suction device designed to clear nasal congestion in babies and children.