“Back to School” are words many parents have been waiting to hear for months! As the summer days pass us by though, many parents have noticed that this extended break from school has really done a number on kids’ sleep schedules — they’re staying up late or all night and sleeping well into the day. Clearly, this schedule is going to make the first week of school an extra sleepy challenge for students, teachers, and parents! Here are some tips for getting your school-age child’s sleep schedule back on track:
- As soon as you can, start moving bedtime up by 30 minutes a day and waking them up 30 minutes earlier every day.
- During this transition, they might be sleepy during the day but help them to stay busy and active, so they aren’t tempted to take a nap.
- Reduce screen time in the evening hours, eliminating it completely an hour or more before bedtime so their brains have time to relax before it’s time to go to sleep.
- Set clear limits and provide specific activities that children are allowed to do when they are having trouble falling asleep – watching TV can reinforce problems with sleep, but reading a book or coloring before bed might help them settle down.
- Explain the process of shifting their sleep schedule and why you are doing so while remembering that they probably won’t care very much about that when you announce that it’s bedtime earlier than they’d like.
- Find small ways to celebrate and reward successes during this process. “You went to bed last night when I asked you to! I know it was tough, but you did it!”
- Take a deep breath. Even if their sleep schedule is still a little wonky the week before school starts, having to stay awake all day at school will ensure that they are tired when bedtime comes around. Their sleep cycles will continue to regulate over the first month or two of school.
- If your child has sleep difficulties or you need help with this process, reach out to your pediatrician or a therapist for assistance.