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Get Kids’ Sleep Schedules Ready for Back to School

Summer is a free-for-all. Longer daylight hours, sleepovers, summer camps, holidays, and vacations disrupt your children’s sleep routine. But school is looming, and you need to get them back on track. First:

Get Kids’ Sleep Schedules Ready for Back to School

(Deleece Cook/unsplash)

Are They Getting Enough Sleep?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends sleep ranges by age to ensure optimal health and development:

  • Preschoolers (three to five years) require 10 to 13 hours, including naps
  • School-Age children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers require 8 to 10 hours per night

If they are not getting enough sleep, their behavior and performance will suffer.
Here’s how you can help your child optimize their sleep hours so they’re ready to perform their best at school:

Adjust Their Sleep Schedule

It’s critical to have an incremental approach if your child has been going to bed later than usual or waking up well after school times. Use 30 to 60-minute segments to shift their bedtime and wake up hours every couple of days. You should start one to two weeks before they need to be on their school schedule. This gradual approach will ensure your child is adjusting without leading to overtired meltdowns.

Have A Healthy Bedtime Routine

You are unlikely to climb right into bed and fall asleep without winding down first. Children are the same and even more sensitive to routine. Make sure you have an established pattern to help signal to your kids that it is time for sleep.

A warm bath or shower is a great way to kickstart relaxation. Get them washed up, teeth brushed, and into their pajamas. Some children find comfort in talking about what they did that day. Snuggling with a bedtime story or some lullabies is a great way to end the day. As they get older, they may prefer some calming music, journaling, or reading books themselves. If your older child is struggling with their routine, a bedtime checklist can help.

Create A Sleep-friendly Environment

Baby sleep coaches have a lot to say about getting newborns sleeping through the night, and there are plenty of parents hanging on every bit of advice that they offer. But after the going gets good, many of us start to get out of good habits. As you work on tightening up kids’ sleep routines, consider these tips for an optimal sleep environment. They are applicable for every stage and will even help sleep issues in adulthood:

  • Monitor The Room Temperature: a room that is too cold or warm will keep your child awake. Some sleep warmer or colder, but ideal temperatures are typically around 68 to 72° F.
  • Reduce Light: A dark environment will prevent broken sleep or early morning wakings. Darkening or heavy curtains will eliminate outside light. Keep electronics, especially with blue light, and night lights to a minimum. If required, find night lights that emit red light, which is the least detrimental to sleep.
  • Their Bed Is For Sleep: It’s hard to relax and sleep in a work environment. Encourage your children to play, read, or do homework in dedicated settings out of bed.
  • Keep Noise To A Minimum: Avoid noisy activities in the evening when your child is trying to sleep. Some children prefer silence, while most prefer a fan or white noise machine to block out noise and lull them to sleep.
  • Pay Attention To Their Room’s Location: If their room gets the afternoon sun, it may be warmer than the rest of the house and need extra cooling. If they get the morning light, you may need proper blackout curtains to prevent early wakeups. If their room faces a busier street, they may need extra noise such as a noise machine to stop traffic sounds from disrupting their sleep.

Establish Good Habits For Better Sleep

  • Avoid Caffeinated Beverages: The CDC and AAP do not recommend any caffeine consumption for children. You can find caffeine in teas, coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, and some sports snacks and bars. Make sure to read ingredients and nutrition labels to ensure caffeine isn’t keeping your child awake and alert past their bedtime.
  • Keep Napping to a Minimum: You know when your child is overtired and needs some extra sleep, especially if they are under the weather. However, avoid letting naps happen if they interfere with their night sleep or put their daily sleep hours well outside the recommended amounts.
  • Encourage Physical Activity: Daily exercise will promote sleep and reduce stress. It will also reduce their risk for obesity later in life. Avoid exertion just before bed as it can impede falling asleep. Stick to relaxation activities before bed. Otherwise, let them run wild.
  • Don’t Overdo It with Extracurriculars: Since daily exercise is good, an extracurricular every day may seem like a great idea. Children thrive with structure but also need some free time to rest and be creative. It’s critical for their development. Avoid overfilling their days with scheduled activities.
  • Reduce Screen Time Before Bed: Research is still ongoing, but blue light from screens is associated with poorer quality sleep. This may be because blue light suppresses melatonin, the hormone signaling your body that it’s time to sleep. Avoid TV, handheld video games, phones, tablets, computers, or other electronics emitting blue light an hour before bedtime to reduce sleep difficulties.

Once you have gone through the struggles of setting up a good routine, try not to let it slip. Keep it going on weekends for calmer and happier days and nights. Like most things with children, the consistency and effort are well worth it and will pay off when school starts.

Need more guidance on child sleep training? Sleep Sense is here to help, and if you would like to help other families sleep better, ask about our child sleep consultant certification program.

Baby Not Sleeping Through The Night?

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The Sleep Sense Philosophy

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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