By Brian Acton
If your child has lapsed into a more laid-back sleeping schedule during the summer, they could be in for a rude awakening once school starts back up. Inconsistent bedtimes and a lack of quality sleep can affect a child’s academics, physical wellbeing, and psychological health as well - so it pays to get your kid back on a regular schedule by the time school starts back up.
Children from age seven to twelve need about ten hours of sleep ever night, while teenagers need at least eight hours. With those goals in mind, here’s how to get your child back on a sleep schedule before school starts.
1. Establish a Target Wakeup Time and Bedtime
Establish the time your kid needs to wake up to make it to school on time (if they’re just starting school or school start times are changing, you may need to use your best estimate and adjust later). Make sure to leave plenty of time for the morning routine and add some padding, especially if your child is a slow riser.
Using your target wakeup time, you can work backwards to establish a bedtime - roll the clock back eight to ten hours depending on your child’s age and your knowledge of their sleeping needs. Now you have a target bedtime.
2. Measure the Difference Between Your Target and Reality
Compare your target bedtime to your child’s current bedtime. Do they go to bed later in the summer? Do they take themselves to bed when they’re tired? Or are you still close to your target bedtime? This will tell you how much adjustment your child needs to make by the time school starts.
3. Gradually Adjust Bedtimes to the Target
Now that you have a target in mind, it’s time to start gradually adjusting bedtime to reach your target before school starts. Gradually move bedtime a little earlier each week, with the goal of reaching the target bedtime by the time school is back in session. Ideally, adjustments will be minor (15 to 30 minutes earlier each week) to give your child time to adjust.
Once they’ve reached their target bedtime, keep it consistent – even on the weekends (and next summer if you don’t want to repeat this process again).
4. Develop a Bedtime Routine
Kids need time to wind down before they go to sleep. Ahead of bedtime, have your child perform a quiet and relaxing activity - such as reading, taking a bath, or drawing - to help them get ready for bed.
5. Make Sure they Exercise
Regular exercise helps kids get to sleep faster, while a sedentary lifestyle can cause children to have trouble falling or staying asleep. Make sure your kids get plenty of exercise on a daily basis.
6. Avoid Distractions
Once your kids are in bed, try to keep your home quiet. Loud noises such as music, television, and loud conversation can wake up your kids. Try to remove sources of ambient light and other distractors from the bedroom.
Technology like phones, tablets, and computers can disrupt bedtime as well. The blue light emitted by screens can depress the body’s production of melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles. Gadgets keep the mind active and notifications can wake kids up. You may want to institute a no gadget policy ahead of bedtime and keep them out of the bedroom.