Your children’s sleep schedules often get off track during the summer with vacations, camp, and sunlight lasting late into the evening. All of this can lead to trouble sleeping when it’s time to return to a structured schedule at the start of the school year. The benefits of a good night’s sleep are well known—sleep reduces stress and the frequency of sickness and regulates weight, among other advantages—but this is especially true for growing children. Getting adequate rest not only helps them perform better in school; it’s also important for their overall health and development.
Here are some simple steps from NewYork-Presbyterian to help reestablish a back-to-school sleep schedule for your kids.
Prepare your kids for early morning wake-ups by gradually shifting their bedtime and wake-up time earlier by increments of 15 minutes.
This means that if a child has been going to sleep at 9:30 pm, the next night’s bedtime should move to 9:15 pm, and then the following night’s bedtime should become 9 pm, and so on. Begin this process about two weeks prior to school starting, depending on your child’s bedtime, which will allow them to adjust to the new routine so the first day of school is manageable.
Consistent, calming activities will help your child fall asleep more easily.
Following the same bedtime rituals each evening, such as taking a bath, putting on pajamas, and reading a book, will let your child’s body know that it is time to wind down. Teaching children to fall asleep on their own is also key to decreasing nighttime awakenings. Staying or lying with a child until they fall asleep creates a sleep association, which is a condition that must be present in order for them to fall asleep. The
same sleep associations learned at bedtime are then needed to fall back asleep during the night. Children who can fall asleep on their own will be able to soothe themselves back to sleep without assistance if they wake up briefly during the night.
Stop screen use—including watching television and using laptops, tablets, and cellphones—at least one hour prior to bedtime, and turn off all electronic devices at night for optimal sleep.
The blue light from screens can inhibit the release of melatonin, the hormone that causes a child to feel drowsy, making it harder for them to fall asleep. Light and noises from cellphones can also trigger nighttime wake-ups and tempt children to look at their phone if they do wake up overnight. All electronics are best left outside of your child’s bedroom come bedtime!
Source: NewYork-Presbyterian’s Health Matters website: healthmatters.nyp.org