Adjusting to School Sleep Schedules
6 tips to get your child’s sleep schedule on track for the new school year.
By: Bonnie Schiedel
Summertime means relaxed schedules, erratic bedtimes and sleeping in. And why not? Kicking back is an important – and fun! – part of summer. But stick with that lax routine until school starts and you and your kids will be in for a rude awakening (literally!) on the big day. Establish a healthy back-to-school sleep schedule now and you’ll both be well rested and ready for the first day. Here’s how.
Sleep issue #1: It’s bright outside!
Even as the summer draws to a close, daylight can linger long into the evening. Help your child adjust to sleeping earlier by installing room-darkening roller blinds, available from home improvement and department stores. Or, have kids try on a sleeping mask for size. “Eyeshades in funky colors or designs tend to work well for some kids,” says Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health.
Sleep issue #2: It’s noisy!
Cool night breezes are welcome, but the street noise that may drift in is not. Use a small electric fan to create soothing “white noise” that blocks out extraneous sounds. Or, you might consider a sound machine, suggests Dr. Breus. “Data shows that a lot of people respond well to ocean sounds.” Download a few nature tracks and pop a disc into a portable CD player to lull your child to sleep.
Sleep issue #3: It’s hot in here!
“When it comes to bedrooms, the cooler, the better,” says Dr. Breus. “Below 75F (24C) is the magic number.” Cool things down with a fan, a cool bath or some air conditioning. Just be sure not to switch back to heat-creating winter pjs and bedding too quickly.
Sleep issue #4: Too wired to sleep!
Hot days require that kids guzzle their liquids, but keep an eye on the beverages your child consumes. Caffeinated drinks like cola, iced tea, root beer and even Sunkist Sunny D should be off-limits, since each can rob kids of precious sleep each night. Limit screen time too: summer treats like movies, TV and video games right before bed interfere with quality sleep.
Sleep issue #5: I’m worried about school!
It’s possible your child is anxious about a new school year. Maybe there’s a demanding subject, unknown teacher, new school or intimidating classmates they’re thinking about. Whatever the issue, take the time to listen and reassure your child to figure out ways to handle the situation.
Sleep issue #6: My sleep schedule is out of whack!
While summer is full of great reasons to miss regular bed- and wake-up times, gradually adjusting schedules before school is key, notes Dr. Breus. Try making the early rise a bit more fun, he says. Since the morning light will help your child’s internal clock adjust to the new schedule, sit on the front steps together with a cup of hot chocolate and check out the dew on spider webs or the interesting moths that cluster around porch lights. Or, try this tip from Diana Ennen from Margate, Florida: “It’s really hard on my kids when we wait until the last minute to get back on track for sleep, so three weeks before school starts, we have them go to bed and wake up a half hour early. The week after that, we add another half hour to their schedule. Once school starts, they’re set and ready to go!”