Back to School Sleep Tips
I don’t know about you, but this summer has flown by for my family! We had lots of time outside and amazing beach days but to be honest, our schedule has been thrown off quite a bit! We’ve let the boys stay up later than normal to participate in family and friend parties, see fireworks, roast marshmallows, and we’ve skipped our share of naps. It’s around this time of year that parents start to panic and wonder how to work structure back in to daily life so that our littles will be ready to wake up early for school and still be in a good mood by the time bedtime roles around later that night.
The benefits of sleep for school age children have been well documented. Lack of sleep has been associated with cardiovascular risk, obesity, and poor academic performance. When children are overtired they have difficulty sitting still and focusing on what is being taught. These are just a few of the reasons why it is so important to ensure your littles are well rested!
SLEEP NEEDS BY AGE:
Let’s review sleep needs by age so you know what you’re aiming for. Here’s a chart that will help you determine how much sleep each of your littles needs:
START 1-2 WEEKS BEFORE THE FIRST SCHOOL DAY:
So how do you get your schedule back on track after having a fun, albeit, non-regimented summer? I recommend starting to focus on your school year sleep schedule 1-2 weeks prior to the start of your school year. If your bedtime has shifted significantly later, start by moving it earlier in 15-minute to 30-minute increments each night leading up to the start of school. If your wake-up times in the morning have also shifted later, you can also begin to shift these earlier in similar increments. If your wake-up times have shifted earlier, despite a later bedtime, your child could be overtired. Hopefully with an earlier bedtime (and return to regular napping where applicable) your little will start sleeping in a bit later. Remember sleep begets sleep so early bedtimes absolutely do not mean earlier morning wake up times!
Consistency with wake up times, nap times, and bedtimes can really help you and your child stay on top of sleep needs during the school year. If your child is still napping you’ll want to keep bedtime flexible depending upon the nap quality of the day. If your child usually naps but didn’t on a particular day, you’ll want to institute an earlier bedtime. If your child had an epic nap on the other hand, you’ll want to let bedtime slide a bit later. Every child is different so pay attention to your child’s mood at the end of the day, how long it takes your little to fall asleep at night, and how their mood is in the morning to help tailor your schedule to your individual child.
It’s especially important to consider consistency on the weekends. It’s so easy to get yourself into a pattern where you and your littles are sleeping in later on the weekends. The problem with this is that by the time you arrive at Sunday night, bedtimes are shifted later but your littles (and you) still have to wake up at that same early time Monday morning. So, if you’re going to allow some sleeping in aim for Saturday and then attempt to shift things back to your weekday schedule by the time Sunday morning rolls around. This way you’ll be ready to wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed for Monday morning.
To help make bedtime go more smoothly I also recommend no screen time 1-2 hour before bedtime. If your bedtime is already going smooth you can probably get away with no screen time 1 hour prior to bedtime to help maintain your routine. If your bedtime routine is not going smoothly then I recommend closer to 2 hours. Blue light emitted from screens can be a culprit in preventing the release of melatonin, our sleepy hormone. You can read more about the negative affects of blue light here.
Exposure to natural sunlight in the early morning hours and late afternoon can help to regulate your littles’ body clock. Playing outside before or right after dinner (depending on what time dinner is relative to bedtime) will help to promote melatonin, our sleep hormone, production, and therefore facilitate a smoother bedtime and sounder nights sleep.
BLAME THE CLOCK:
Last, to help keep your bedtime routine on track, blame the clock! You can create a flexible bedtime routine clock by following my instructions here. You can even add on a colored section for homework time or other after school activities.
Although children do thrive on consistency, special occasions will continue to pop up throughout the school year and on the weekends that will throw your schedule off once again. This is okay! If you have a solid routine and an easy sleeper, your schedule will easily return. If you don’t have a solid routine you may require some extra steps to help get you back on track. If you need some help establishing a healthy sleep schedule and routine, you know where to find me!