Summertime is nearly over for your kids, and that means time to transition from long hours outside of unstructured play, catching up on all the latest superhero movies and Netflix hits, and spontaneous all-day beach trips, back to an early morning bus schedule. In the words of teens everywhere: “ew.” Like it or not, for both you and your kids, it’s school season again, and all the schedules and structure that come with that. If your child is used to staying up until four in the morning playing Overwatch and sleeping until noon before he lurches downstairs for cereal, you’re definitely already reconsidering that entire summer vacation. Getting kids of any age back on the right track is going to be a pain—wouldn’t it be easier if we just never took a break?
Not so. We’ve got five easy tips to help you and your kids hit the ground running this fall!
1. Get up at the same time every morning
It might be tempting to let the whole family sleep in on weekends and for as long as they can before school starts. Resist! If everyone consistently gets up at the same time, including on the weekends, it’s easier to adjust completely to the new schedule, and not “drag” through normal days for nearly as long. It’s best to quit sleeping in completely until your kids have completely adjusted to the new school schedule. Plus, if you consistently get up early, everyone will be more likely to be ready for bed at bedtime.
2. No electronics before bedtime
For younger kids, it can be best to enforce a “no electronics before bedtime” rule. You can place this cutoff two hours before bedtime, an hour, or maybe three hours if you’re feeling ambitious. This will help set the tone for bedtime and give your kids a good cue that it’s time to start winding down.
For older kids, you can show them some of the studies done on blue light exposure and how it affects their sleeping habits and allow them to make their own decisions on how much screen time to allow themselves. Letting them set the limits will help them take control over their own habits rather than having a parent enforce outside limitations that may be less likely to stick.
3. Designated sleeping environment
Make sure that the bedroom is designed for sleeping, not literally everything else under the sun. If there’s a desk, TV, train set, art easel, and every other activity your child enjoys crammed into one room, that room no longer seems like a place for sleeping. Make the bedroom a place for sleeping by designating it for only that activity. If this isn’t possible, consider sectioning off the bed to at least keep that area separate.
4. Don’t eat right before bed
Studies show that eating right before bed can make it harder to go to sleep. Your body is working hard to digest all that food and not thinking about sleep. Make sure you help your kids with this by serving dinner early in the evening and keeping an eye on snack consumption. If you’re going to ready for back-to-school, your stomach can’t be busy at ten o’clock at night.
5. Adjust gradually
With all of these changes, it’s important to remember that gradual changes are the ones more likely to stick. If your kids are used to going to sleep around midnight, suddenly enforcing an eight pm bedtime is a recipe for failure. Instead, consider setting the bedtime one hour earlier at a time. Once everyone is used to an eleven PM bedtime, you can slide it up an additional hour, and so forth.
Getting everyone’s sleep schedule back on track can be a difficult task, but once it’s done, you’ll find that everything else in your changing schedule flows more smoothly. A good night’s sleep truly is the foundation of a good day, and for kids especially, poor sleep can be a big problem. If you or your kids are still having trouble sleeping after school starts up, contact us today and let Sleep Science Clinic help you get your best night’s sleep!