The start of the new school year is just around the corner and for many families this means more than just getting back to school supplies in order; it means it is time to get back to bedtime. Summer days are long and summer schedules can be less structured than those followed during the school year. Parents may let kids stay up later or be less strict about when they go to bed and when they get up. But that can make for bleary-eyed mornings for the first few weeks of school.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most school age children need 10-11 hours of sleep each night. Help your family get back into the habit of going to bed on time as the new school year starts with these helpful tips and strategies.
Make Sleep a Priority
There is ample research supporting the importance of sleep to good health and yet many of us continue to treat it as something we can afford to skip when something ‘important’ needs to get done. Set a good example for your children by making sleep as big a priority in your home as exercise and healthy eating. When you treat sleep with the importance it deserves, your children will do the same.
One of the best ways to support healthy sleep habits is to get into a routine of getting up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends and to lay out a routine that helps your body settle into sleep. Involve your child in deciding what those routines will be so that they feel part of the process rather than like it is being dictated to them. This will also serve them well when they become adults because it gives them the skills they need to establish their own healthy sleep routines later in life.
Whether school has already started or you have a couple weeks to go, start getting everyone back into these routines now. If children have to adjust their schedule so that they are getting up earlier and going to bed earlier, they might wind up a little over tired during that process. It is better for them if that can happen before the first few days of school. If they have already started school, getting these routines in place will make it easier for them to get the sleep they need.
Set Up Their Space
We sleep best when we have an environment that promotes sleep. This means that it is devoid of light and jarring sound, comfortable, and on the cool side. Make sure each child’s bedroom can provide these optimal sleep conditions and make any changes needed. You might also want to consider eliminating any electronic devices from their sleep environment as these can steal sleep by tricking the body into believing it is daytime rather than night.
Cut the Three C’s
In the hours leading up to bedtime, make sure your child avoids the three sleep stealing ‘C’s’ – caffeine, carbs (mostly sugar), and calories. Eating or drinking anything that is packed with sugar or that contains caffeine will impact their ability to fall asleep and eating a big meal or a lot of calories right before bed can disrupt sleep quality and quantity throughout the night.