August is here already! The summer has flown by and it’s that time of year again…back to school. Some of your little ones may have already returned to school and others are gearing up to get back into the swing of things.
For most parents, this time of year sends a sheer panic with all of the to-dos that come with back to school…shopping for supplies, buying new uniforms, adjusting schedules for pick up and drop off, after-school activities, packing lunches, and the dreaded homework.
This also means the lazy days of summer, the sleeping ins, and staying up lates are gone. And you have to now get into a predictable schedule. Or so we hope…
The first few weeks can be challenging to get back in the swing of things because most of us allow our children to stay up later during the summer. Those early mornings are dreaded and can be rough, for both kiddos and parents.
Returning your children to a proper schedule can be quite an ordeal without a game plan. I’ve got you covered with my essential back-to-school tips!
Don’t wait until school starts
It’s hard to snap back into a proper bedtime in one night, especially after two months of late bedtimes. Your child’s body needs time to adjust, so about two weeks before school starts, begin moving back bedtime by 15 minutes, for 3 nights at a time, until you reach desired bedtime.
Turn off those screens
TV, phone screens, and computers all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks to thinking it’s still daytime, inhibiting our natural melatonin production. I recommend turning off electronics after dinnertime and keeping them off until the next day. But if that’s too much to ask, at least an hour before bedtime. (This goes for you, too Mom and Dad!)
Routine, routine, routine
I preach this one ALL.THE.TIME. I don’t care if your child is going to kindergarten or 12th grade! A consistent sleep routine is essential. A routine is not just about physically getting ready for bed. A routine signals our brain that we are transitioning out of day and into night and sleep is to follow. A routine cues the brain that bedtime is near, as the brain begins shutting down in preparation for sleep. A proper routine is about 30-45 minutes in length, does not include screen time, and is consistent night after night.
Schedule an appropriate bedtime
Every child is different, so you probably have an idea of when they should go to bed. That being said, I hope your idea is 8:00pm! I can hear some of you now, “My child doesn’t even get tired until 10:00 or 10:30, so I figure…” And I’m going to stop you right there. 8:00pm. Every. Night. No later. Kids need minimally 10 hours of sleep per night, so until you can wake them up and get them ready for school at lightning speed, 8:00pm it is.
Start with the needed wake-up time for school and count backward
- 3-5-year-olds (preschool): 10 – 13 hours, start with 12
- 5-7-year-olds: 10 – 11 hours, start with 11
- 7-9-year-olds: 9 – 11 hours, start with 10
Bonus tip, maintain that schedule even on the weekends to make it easier on their body clocks, especially when Monday rolls around.
Wind down before bed
Try not to over-schedule activities in the evening, or at least keep it to a minimum number of days per week. No screen time ideally 2 hours prior to bedtime. Include reading time, whether your child is an independent reader or you’re reading to them, a half hour of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. A consistent bedtime routine should also be a part of the wind-down process.
Create the ideal sleep environment
Use the bed for sleep so that your child associates the bed with sleep. The bed should not be used for other activities like homework or video games. Use a separate space in their room or another room, if possible. Make sure the room is dark and cool. The sun is still up late into the evenings and rises early, even through September, so make sure you’ve got a good pair of blackout curtains. That sun also has a pesky habit of heating up bedrooms, so make sure your thermostat is set at an appropriate temperature for sleeping. The ideal sleeping temperature is between 68-72 degrees. Use a sound machine or fan to drown out environmental noises that can prevent your child from falling asleep or wake them during lighter stages of sleep.
Older kiddos with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of texting, scrolling through social media or the web if they have their phones in their rooms at night. Change the rules around phones in the bedroom. Keep the charger in the kitchen, and have them plug it in at night before bedtime, and they can their precious phone back in the morning.
The quality and quantity of sleep children get has a profound impact on how they learn and retain information, interact with others, and cope with day-to-day life. Creating healthy sleep habits will not only ensure your home is peaceful at bedtime and in the morning but will also set your child up for lifelong learning (and life) success.
Don’t assume that your child(ren) knows what you want them to do. Use a chart with pictures if need be. Children are visual learners so this is a great tool that you can use to help your child have a sense of control over bedtime and learn the expectations around bedtime.
Of course, if your family has gone weeks or months without a good night’s sleep, all the tips & tricks in the world may not help you get to the bottom of your sleep struggles. We know that when we aren’t sleeping, we aren’t performing at our best. So if your child is struggling to sleep, they may be struggling in school as well. I offer a FREE no-obligation Sleep Evaluation for families like yours, so you can see what Sleep Training is all about and how it could help your family finally get the sleep you need to ace this new school year!