It’s that time of year again — kids traded lazy summer days for classrooms and lessons. There’s a mixture of excitement for the new school year and a little dread that summer is over. For parents, the dread is centered around getting your child back into a back-to-school routine. This includes implementing a consistent sleep schedule. If you’re wondering how you can possibly get your child in bed at a reasonable hour after months of late summer bedtimes, we’re here to help. It won’t be as bad as you imagine.
To make the transition easiest, it’s best to start adjusting bedtime a couple of weeks before school starts. But if you haven't done that don’t despair! Being consistent going forward is what’s important now. To help, start your child’s bedtime routine early in the evening. Try to have dinner as early as is feasible — ensuring that their bodies have been able to properly digest before unwinding for bed. Begin lowering the lights and lowering the blinds to help their bodies adjust to the feeling of evening earlier can also be helpful.
Speaking of routine, staying consistent is the number one rule of implementing a new sleep schedule. Even on the weekends, stick to the same sleep routine so that your child’s body knows what to expect as soon as school starts. If your child suffers from attention issues, a consistent sleep schedule can promote better focus but only if they have a routine they can rely on every day — not just on school nights.
Give Your Child Purpose
Unless your child loves school, they’re going to resist an extra early wake up call. Even if you did everything correctly and started altering their sleep schedule weeks in advance, there’s a good chance your child still won’t enjoy waking up early. In those cases, start their morning with a sense of purpose. Give them a task to do or a specific morning routine so they aren’t tempted to hit the snooze button and send their body back into an irregular sleep schedule.
Some suggestions we find work well are making the bed first thing in the morning. That sense of duty and responsibility helps prevent procrastination. You can also assign your child the task of making breakfast for the family. Oatmeal or fruit are easy foods children of all ages will be able to make by themselves that your family can eat at home or on the way to school. You might also want to encourage your child to set goals for the day or practice mindfulness in the morning. Anything that gets them out of bed and doesn’t involve a screen is a great option.
Create a Perfect Sleeping Environment
Although most children will blame the early wake ups during back-to-school season for their exhaustion, more than likely the culprit is not being able to fall asleep quickly at night. Until your child’s internal clock resets to an earlier bedtime, they’ll likely lay in bed, wide awake. Easing them into a new bedtime in intervals will help them fall asleep faster, but it’s also helpful to create an optimal sleep environment.
To create a room that promotes falling asleep quickly, make sure to remove all screens. TVs, laptops and smartphones are all distracting and stimulate your child’s brain whether they know it or not. In fact, to be most effective, we suggest not looking at screens two full hours before bed. It’s also helpful to add quiet white noise that helps create a calm environment that will lull your child to sleep. White noise from a fan or even a traditional alarm clock will prevent your child from focusing on other noises throughout the house that might keep them awake. Finally, try to keep the room as dark as possible. Light tells your body it’s time to be awake and active. If you give your child a dark room to sleep it, their brain will subconsciously start to slow down in preparation for sleep.
All of these tips and tricks, when used together, will help you and your child get through the back-to-school transition with flying colors. And if you have any tips that have worked for your family, please feel free to share them with our community!