Sleep: The Best Way To Prepare For School’s Return

Aug 8, 2023

During summer vacation, it’s natural for bedtimes to slip. When the days are long, we are exposed to more sunlight. Extended light delays melatonin production. Our brains produce this hormone as it gets dark to help prepare our bodies for sleep. As the return to school looms, how do we get back on track with the early morning routine? Follow these tips to ensure your kids sleep through the night and are refreshed to handle their first week back in the classroom:

Know How Much Sleep They Need

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children between 3 and 5 get 10-13 hours of sleep daily. After that, they need 9-12 hours until their thirteenth birthday. Teenagers need 8-10 hours every day. Naps should always be factored into their overall sleep count for the day.

Of course, these are only guidelines. Individual sleep needs vary, especially in times of stress or illness. You know your children best. You can identify how much sleep they need to be happy, healthy, and alert for school.

Start Early

Don’t stress if you’ve left it until the last minute. Just jump into your routine with the necessary bedtime, and your kids will adjust. However, transitioning your kids back slowly is easier if you have the time. Aim for a bedtime 15 to 30 minutes earlier each night until they go to bed at the necessary time to get enough sleep and wake up for school.

Be Consistent With Their Nightly Routine

Whether it includes a bath or shower, audiobooks, story time with you, or a shadow puppet show, stick with a constant routine. Set the bedtime, and stand by it. Before that bedtime, ensure they always have some quiet time. This helps them unwind and discuss their concerns before bed. They will relax into sleep more easily if they can express their worries before bed.

Think about the implications of nightly extracurriculars. They can impact their bedtime if they are too late in the evening or involve exercise. It’s tough to come straight home from an activity and go directly to bed. If their evening activities impede their sleep, find a more suitable time for them to attend.

Say No To Stimulants

Avoid beverages and candies, like dark chocolate, that contain caffeine. Limit sugary sodas, even if they are caffeine-free. Be aware of any medications they are taking that could disrupt their sleep. Over-the-counter cold and allergy medications can make them feel restless and anxious. Prescription medications can also be stimulating; if your provider recommends taking them in the morning, follow their directions to avoid sleep problems.

Create A Sleep-Friendly Environment

Depending on where you live, it can be light when your children should go to sleep. If it is, try to minimize sunlight exposure in the hour leading up to bed. Additionally, you make their room a restful environment. Use dark, heavy, or actual blackout curtains to block the sunlight. The curtains can also help keep heat out. A cool room is ideal; sleeping in a stuffy room would keep anyone awake.

Try to eliminate distractions by tucking away loud, flashy toys or electronics. Tablets, TVs, and computers in your children’s rooms can be too enticing and make sleep a struggle. Also, avoid noisy activities like vacuuming that would reach young ears trying to sleep. If you live near a busy road or know your household is noisy, invest in a sound machine with white noise or a fan. Either of these can help create a constant, soothing sound to block out everything else.

Whether we are conscious of it or not, our bodies know what we do in specific spaces. For example, we eat in or near the kitchen. If we spend too much time there, we will open the fridge or the pantry looking for food as our bodies get hungry. The same is true for where we work. Our brains go into drive and wake our body for some critical thinking. When we blur the lines by working in bed, our brains confuse whether to get sleepy or go into work mode. Because of this, have your kid do their homework and read in a designated work area. This way, their bed is only for sleep, and they can relax there.

Make It Fair

If you have multiple kids, ensure the schedule applies to everyone. Communicate any significant changes before you make them so your children have time to adjust. They will be more likely to cooperate.

Whether you have one or many children, practice what you preach. Show them you’re winding down for bed too. Brush your teeth together. Wash your face while they play in the bath. It will help the whole routine go smoothly.

These tips promote healthy habits to help your kid sleep, bolstering their school performance. The American Academy of Pediatrics explains that routinely sleeping less than recommended harms children’s attention, behavior, and learning. It’s never too early to start working on your little one’s sleep routine, especially as the new school year approaches.