Going back to schools means the relaxed, lazy days of summer are about to end. Soon your life will be filled with homework, after-school activities, packed schedules – and the toughest part of it all — earlier bedtimes and getting the kids out of bed on-time! This change of pace can be a jolt to the whole family.
How do you avoid first day of school sleep exhaustion? Here are three tips to help everyone prepare for that first day of school…and year.
1. Start Early…Sleep Much
Waiting for the night before school to get the kids in bed earlier will only lead to failure, stress, and frustration. It is best to start 7-14 days before school begins, slowly moving up bedtime and waking your child earlier. During the summer, if your child was going to bed at 9pm, you’ll want to move up their bedtime by 15 minutes each night until he reaches an appropriate school bedtime. Do the same in the morning, waking him 15 minutes earlier each morning. You’ll want to establish an appropriate schedule for the school year and keep these consistent sleep and wake times, even on the weekend.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night. Children aged 5-12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night and tween and teens, aged 10-18 need a little less — 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night. But overall, most children don’t get enough sleep.
2. Family Meeting
Going back to school is a big time for any child. Now is a wonderful time to sit down as a family and talk about what’s to change. Make sure to include everyone, especially the 4-7 year olds, as they may feel the most uncertain about all the change. Discuss all aspects, including the importance and value of sleep. You want them to understand that healthy sleep is as important as nutrition. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as ADHD and cognitive problems, that impact their ability to learn in school.
“A study of fourth- and sixth-grade students showed that after losing about one hour of sleep over several nights, students performed worse on a test that predicts their ability to pay attention in class.” (www.webmd.com/parenting)
Show your care, love and understanding about the importance of schedules and healthy sleep. Let them know that you understand that getting into a new routine isn’t always fun, but it’s meant to help them feel confident and well rested in their daily school activities.
3. Beyond Bedtime
To approach sleep appropriately, you need to look at the child’s whole day. It’s hard to implement an earlier bedtime if children’s entire daily schedule isn’t adjusted. Now is the time to set a dinner time, establish and perform bedtime routines and limit electronic time. Make sure their bedroom is conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
Electronics should be kept out of the bedroom. This includes cell phones, computers, televisions, video games, tablets, anything with a lit screen. “Research has found that gazing at a brightly lit screen disrupts the body’s natural sleep cycle. Artificial light, especially those in blue and green hues, suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin, which prompts your body to feel more awake than it actually is.” (www.health.harvard.edu) This disrupts healthy sleep and can lead to sleeping problems. Eliminate exposure to electronics at least an hour before bed.
Put healthy sleep on the list of back-to-school necessities and breeze through your first day, week and month at school. Everyone will be happy you did so!