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Published on August 02, 2021

young boy sleeping

Take the Burden Out of Back-To-School Bedtimes

While it may seem that summer vacation just began, “back to school” is fast approaching. The transition from the flexibility of summer schedules to the specific routines of the school year can be difficult for children and parents alike.

“One challenging aspect is getting back to the school year bedtime routine,” said Twila Perkinson, Avera certified child life specialist.

For some, the most challenging aspect is getting back to the school year bedtime routine. Luckily, there are steps parents can take to alleviate much of the stress that comes with this transition.

How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?

Parents need to know how much sleep their children need to be healthy and productive. Children gradually need less sleep as they get older, and generally, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends:

  • Ten to 13 hours of sleep for kids ages 3-5
  • Nine to 12 hours for kids who are 6-12
  • Eight to 10 hours for 13-18 year-old children

Adequate sleep improves and positively maintains several areas of children’s health and lifestyle including:

  • Attention span
  • Learning capacity
  • Emotional regulation skills
  • Physical and mental health

Many studies have proven these impacts, so the facts are solid. Practicing to establish a bedtime routine can make this change more of a breeze, and less of a battle as summer ends this year.

Make Changes Steadily

A common and useful suggestion for the adjustment is to gradually move bedtime and wake-up times, usually in 15-minute increments, in the days and weeks leading up to the first day of school.

Children who generally adapt easily may be able to adjust just fine with a slightly earlier bedtime each night. In contrast, children who need more time to adjust to other aspects of daily life will likely respond better with more gradual changes, such as every two to five days.

"You know your child best, so develop your plan sooner and stick with it," said Perkinson.

Another major part of successfully adjusting to changing sleep schedules is to develop an appropriate bedtime preparation routine, which may include:

  • Keeping children away from video game and television screens before bed
  • Helping them avoid high-energy activities and caffeine
  • Avoiding heavy meals in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Developing calm, relaxing environments in their bedrooms
  • Eliminating electronics in bed

Change Up the Last Summer Days

Making more plans in the morning rather than the afternoon as summer comes to a close may also be helpful. This naturally gets children used to being more active in the morning hours like they’ll soon be as school begins.

Model Healthy Sleep Habits

Another suggestion may come as a surprise.

"As parents, set an example regarding healthy sleeping habits," said Perkinson. "When children see their parents have night-time routines, it may help them accept and understand their own bedtime."

Adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

Many parents use the time after children have gone to bed as “grown-up time.” While this may be convenient, and even recommended in moderation, don’t let it come at the expense of the mom and dad’s recommended hours of sleep. Are you getting your seven to nine hours per night? Set the example.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Finally, be consistent. While the weekend may be a break from school, it should not be a break from healthy sleeping habits. It can be fun to stay up slightly later when you can wake up slightly later, but make sure kids always get adequate sleep.

Drastic changes in routine from weekdays to weekends are never a good idea, especially for children. When moms and dads keep a regular schedule throughout the entire week, it pays off with simpler, more peaceful Sunday nights and Monday mornings.

Respect the Back-to-School Process

Back-to-school time can bring stress, so a little peace, especially at bedtime, can seem like a miracle. When moms and dads apply these tips, it can allow the whole family to better focus on the other challenges of the season.

Learn more about your child's health need by scheduling an appointment with an expert from Avera's pediatric services.

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