The lazy days of summer are about to end if they haven’t already. Kids are heading back to school which means busy schedules of homework, sports, and after school activities. If your kids are like most others, they have likely been staying up late and sleeping in through much of their summer break. Getting them back into a regular and healthy sleep routine may prove to be challenging.
Studies have shown that when children do not get quality sleep it can increase their risk of anxiety and depression, and result in poor grades and school performance. It may even cause physical pain. Kids need a lot of sleep to function well throughout the day. Children that are sleep deprived will often overcompensate for their lack of sleep by becoming fidgety and possibly even disruptive at school.
Just how much sleep does your child need at night?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, children and teens need a significant amount more sleep than adults to support their rapid mental and physical development.
Knowing how much sleep your child needs is vital in establishing an appropriate bedtime. The following times are approximations. You will have to watch and discover if your child falls in the lower time spectrum or the higher. You may have to adjust their bedtime a few times until you discover that your child is less groggy in the mornings and has become more aware and alert.
- School age children between the ages of 5-8 need the most sleep, requiring between 10-11 hours each night.
- Children between the ages of 9-12 need between 9.5-10 hours each night.
- Adolescents between the ages of 13-18 need between 8.5-9.5 hours each night.
Tips for Getting Your Children on a Regular Sleep Routine for the School Year
- Start the transition from summer sleep schedule to school sleep schedule early. If you can, start getting your child back into the routine of going to bed earlier around two to three weeks before the start of school. Try moving their bedtime back in 15-minute intervals until they are going to bed at the appropriate “school schedule” time. This will make the transition during the first couple weeks of school go much more smoothly.
- Maintain a bedtime schedule. Stay consistent with your child’s sleep schedule, even on the weekends. Allowing your child to stay up late or sleep in on the weekend can interfere with the schedule you are trying to establish.
- Shut off electronics. Electronics should be shut off and/or taken away at least an hour or two before bedtime. Electronics include cell phones, tablets, computers, TV, and video games. These devices can be overly stimulating mentally, and the artificial blue light coming from them will trick the brain into thinking that it is still daylight and keep your child awake.
- Create a relaxing sleep environment. Your child should associate their bed with sleep only, and no other kinds of activities. If your child likes to hang out in their room during the day you should get them a bean bag chair or other such things while they read or play video games. This way the bed is solely identified with sleeping. Keep the room cool (between 68-72 degrees is ideal), quiet, comfortable, and dimly lit (if they aren’t afraid of the dark, no light is even better). You can consider using “white noise” from a fan or sound machine to help them sleep as well. White noise can be relaxing as it creates a rhythmic and consistent sound that can drown out sudden or disruptive noises.
- Limit your child’s caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant and isn’t really very good for kids anyway. To make sure your kids are not up too late at night, try and avoid caffeine after lunch altogether, but never allow them to consume it within three or four hours of bedtime.
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine. Make sure the activities you choose are not overstimulating and that you remain consistent. Some great routines for children include:
- Performing a physical activity (shooting basketball hoops or playing tag for example) for an hour or two before dinner-time to help them wind down later.
- Taking a relaxing bath after dinner.
- Reading a few chapters of a book with Mom and/or Dad, or by themselves, if they prefer.
- Singing a lullaby or saying nightly prayers.
- Have Mom and/or Dad tuck them in at night.
- Make sure your kids exercise regularly and eat healthily. Getting plenty of exercise during the day can help your child wind down at night, and eating healthy has proven to promote sleep. They should avoid fatty foods and processed carbs. These foods fill them but do not contain the vitamins and nutrients needed to produce energy. They should eat foods that are rich in things like antioxidants, amino acids, protein, and vitamins to boost their energy levels during the day without a crash later like they would get after consuming sugary and/or caffeinated beverages and foods.
- Discuss the importance of sleep with your child. Getting your child on a sleep schedule may be more difficult than it sounds, and naturally, they are likely to push back. Talk to them about why it is important to maintain a bedtime. Explain how it will help them feel good while they are at school and may even help them get better grades. Establish clear rules with them. When discussing their bedtime routine, limit the number of stories you will tell them and be adamant about the time for lights out.
- Lead by example. Practice these sleep tips yourself. Both adults and children can benefit from the above sleep tips. Practicing good sleep habits yourself will give you more energy for all the back-to-school activities and set a positive example for our child. Make it clear to your child that the back-to-school schedule is all-inclusive and that the whole family will be participating.
If your child struggles with sleep each night and has trouble staying awake throughout the day, they may have an underlying sleep disorder and could benefit from a sleep consultation with one of the specialists at the Valley Sleep Center. Call 480.830.3900 and schedule an appointment at one of our five convenient Valley locations today.