Back-to-school sleep: 4 strategies to get your kids back on schedule
While you’re still enjoying the last carefree days of summer, it’s tough to think about school-time sleep habits and schedules. You may be getting ready for fall with new school supplies and clothes, but is your family prepared for early bedtimes and early risings to catch the school bus or make that morning bell? Healthy sleep habits are so important to positive school behavior and performance. Alertness, concentration and learning are all linked to adequate sleep!
As you prepare for fall, ensure your family gets off to the best start possible with these strategies for getting sleep-ready for the school year.
Get the entire family involved
● Communicate your back-to-school sleep “rules” to your kids. Explain why the rules are so important for the school year, and then let them help you build your new routine.
● Be a role model! Eat healthy foods, get plenty of exercise and establish and maintain healthy sleep habits. Let your kids know that the school year sleep rules pertain to the entire family.
Ease into a new sleep schedule
Begin getting used to your new bedtime routines two to three weeks before school starts to help your family ease back into a routine that includes early bedtimes and early morning wake-ups.
Go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier and get up 10-15 minutes earlier every few days until you’ve reached your school year bedtimes and wake times. Maintain this for a good week before school starts and stick to it. That includes weekends too!
Schedule your afternoons and evenings wisely
● Get in the habit of getting your kids outside during late-afternoon and early evening hours. You want to give children regular after-school exercise to help them wind down at night.
● Start eating dinner earlier, avoiding big meals and sweets too close to bedtime. If you’ve loosened up on healthy eating habits during the summer, get back to a balanced diet. Avoid processed foods and instead fill your kids up with foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and protein to boost their daytime energy levels. Avoid soda and caffeinated beverages at least six to eight hours before bedtime.
● Dim the lights and start quieting the whole house after dinner. Limit electronic devices, vigorous play, video games and television after dinner. Establish a household rule that eliminates cell phone use one hour prior to bedtime.
Set the scene for great sleep
● If you don’t already have a bedtime routine, establish one. Whatever your routine is, stick to it and make sure it’s age-appropriate and not overly stimulating. Routines that are 30-60 minutes help school age kids make the transition from awake time to sleep time. Don’t forget to pack lunches, prep backpacks and choose the next day’s clothes as part of your nightly routine. Practice this with a dry-run a few days before school starts.
● Make sure your kids’ bedrooms help facilitate a great night’s sleep. The ideal temperature for sleep is 68-72 degrees. A super dark environment without red LED lights or electronic distractions is best. Move the TV, computer and video games to another room. Your child should associate his or her bedroom with sleep time, not playtime!
Joan Becker Friedman is a certified child sleep consultant and the founder of Pea Pod Sleep Consultants.