Tips for a healthy back-to-school sleep schedule from a pediatrician
It is common for kids’ sleep schedules to get off track over the summer with relaxed schedules, trips and sleepovers. As the school year is fast approaching, and as parents, you want to make sure your kids are energized and prepared for full days of learning.
With a little bit of time and a few simple adjustments, you can help your kids wake up feeling rested and ready for the new school year.
Adjusting your child’s summer sleep schedule for back to school
Try to set new sleep habits before the start of the school year. Establish new bedtime and wake-up times at least two weeks before classes begin to help your kids adjust to the first few days of school when they need to wake up earlier. If the first day of school is less than two weeks away, start adjusting as soon as you can.
It can be challenging to create a new sleep schedule after the summer break, so setting your alarm and slowly moving your kids’ wake-up time earlier by 15 minutes each day can help. Putting them to bed 15 minutes earlier each night can also help ensure they are still getting their recommended amount of sleep.
How to help kids and teens establish healthy back-to-school sleep habits
1. Once you have a solid sleep schedule, stick to it.
Once you are able to adjust your child’s sleep schedule for school, make sure to be consistent. Keeping the same sleep schedule even on the weekends can help keep kids’ circadian rhythms (the body’s internal clock) regulated.
2. Restart the before-school bedtime routines.
Get back to the school-night bedtime routine that may have relaxed over the summer. Encourage your kids to wind down 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime by playing quiet music, reading a book or listening to a bedtime story. TV or other digital screens should not be included in quiet time.
After quiet time, try to follow a consistent bedtime routine such as getting into pajamas, taking a shower, going to the bathroom and brushing teeth. Set a time limit for quiet time and the bedtime routine so it does not drag on and your child knows what to expect.
3. Limit screen time before bed.
The blue light from cell phones, tablets and laptops can confuse our bodies into thinking that it’s still light outside, making it harder to fall asleep. Studies have shown that blue light devices reduce or delay the natural production of melatonin in the evening, which decreases the feeling sleepiness and lengthens the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Screens should be turned off at least one hour prior to bedtime.
4. Be active after school.
After-school exercise like sports practice, family walks or a workout video can help tire your child out to make it easier for them to fall asleep. Incorporate physical activity during the day but stick to quiet activities right before bedtime.
5. Avoid caffeine within six hours of your child’s bedtime.
Children should generally avoid drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, energy drinks, soda and tea. Adolescents should avoid caffeine for six hours before bedtime because it may interfere with their ability to sleep. Don’t forget that there can be caffeine in chocolate, too!
Recommended hours of sleep for school-age kids and teens
Every child is different, and you know your child best, but Dr. Mody recommends the following sleep schedules for school-age kids and teens.
|Sleep per 24 hours
|3 to 5 years
|10 to 13 hours
|6 to 12 years
|9 to 12 hours
|13 to 18 years
|8 to 10 hours
With these simple tips for adjusting your child’s bedtime from Dr. Mody, CHOC wishes your family a school year full of learning and growth!
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