Summer’s end can be bittersweet. On the sweet side, your kids are excited to start the new school year, buy school supplies and see their friends. The bitter part? The battle to get them back on an earlier sleep schedule has only just begun.
But you don’t have to lose sleep over your child’s soon-to-be cranky morning wake-up routine. You just need to know how to play it – and when to begin changing things up. Here are six things you can do to make getting your kids on a back to school sleep schedule as easy as counting sheep:
- The 14-Day Rule. Begin making adjustments two weeks before school starts by shifting your child’s going to bed and waking up times. Make it a gradual process, changing the times at 15 or 30-minute intervals. This helps make the transition less jarring.
- No time for screen time. To make the powering down process easier, turn off all electronics (that means TV, computers, tablets and phones) in your child’s room or in his or her possession at least one to two hours before lights out. This decreases the amount of stimulation they’re exposed to before bedtime. And if your child has a TV in his or her bedroom, it’s not a bad idea to remove it from the room altogether to help promote good sleep habits.
- Eat earlier. Your kids shouldn’t eat within two to four hours of going to sleep to avoid digestive issues. This may mean you have to adjust mealtimes.
- Get moving. In the afternoons leading up to the first day of school, make sure your kids get more physical activity than usual to help tire them out. Just don’t let them run around before bed – exercise should stop two to three hours before they hit the hay to avoid overstimulation.
- Minimize caffeine intake, or eliminate it altogether. Caffeinated beverages can disrupt sleep if kids drink them as much as six hours before bedtime. Don’t let your kids have coffee drinks? Don’t forget about the lesser-known foods and drinks that can cause a caffeine buzz, like energizing sports drinks and chocolate.
- Be consistent. Once you start making these adjustments, stick with them. Not being consistent with bedtimes and wake-up times will undo the sleep progress you’ve already made.
Once school starts up, be mindful of extracurricular activities to keep good sleep practices intact. It’s not uncommon for kids to be over-scheduled, jumping from one activity to the next. By the time they get home from sports practice or play rehearsal, eat dinner and do their homework, they may have already short-changed their slumber.
Fatigue can cause mental fogginess, lack of focus and trouble learning – definitely not the best way to kick off the new school year, or any time of year for that matter.
If you are concerned with your child’s sleep issues, be sure to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. To find a Henry Ford pediatrician, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).
For more wellness resources you can share with your child, download our new app – 5-2-1-0 Kids! It’s a fun way for kids to learn the importance of healthy habits.