Summer vacation is full of fun and sun, but it is not always great for sleep. Our kid’s naps are often skipped and/or bedtime is late. All of those exceptions are worth it when you consider that we only have 18 summers with our kids at home. But when we head back to school we want to make sure that they are well-rested.
A back to school sleep schedule is important for all of us, but for a child, it is extra important. Healthy sleep can improve their cognitive ability, their mood, their coordination and even their immune system. All of those in top notch shape are important for a great school year.
We just have a handful of days left to prepare for school and while you may be out shopping for backpacks and lunchboxes you might also consider putting a bit of focus back into sleep.
Talk About Sleep and Expectations:
Prepare ahead of school starting and start talking to your kids about sleep. While we as adults can understand that they will master new skills and learn faster if they get the rest that they need, amongst many other good reasons, our kids may not care about those particular reasons. When talking about why sleep is important, it might be a good idea to put it into words that will resonate with them. For example, “you will be able to ride your bike faster if you get the rest that you need.”
This is also a good time to set sleep boundaries and expectations. You might create a list of simple sleep rules coupled with a reward system for following those sleep rules.
A bedtime routine is great communication to your child that sleep is coming. In the summer months, it’s easy to let the routine slide to get a few more minutes of sunshine. But the time to bring it back is now. Children thrive off of predictability and having a routine that is soothing and predictable is very helpful in getting to bed peacefully and calmly. You’ll find some ideas for great bedtime routines here.
Ensure that your child is getting the right amount of sleep for their age. Sleep needs change a lot throughout the years. It’s important to stay up to date on how much sleep is needed by age. This is a major piece to the healthy sleep puzzle. Children who get the sleep that they need perform better in school.
If you have gone off schedule often in the summer, now is a great time to make up for that lost sleep. The best way to make up for lost sleep is with an earlier bedtime. I know, that sounds funny, but from the time you put your child to bed until midnight is the most restorative sleep they get in 24 hours. It is precious. Plus, in case you haven’t heard; more sleep = more sleep. Believe in that early bedtime! 😉
Limit Screen Time
Did you know that the blue light emitted from tablets, TVs and phones can prohibit sleep? In this day and age it is H-A-R-D to limit screen time, but for a restful night’s sleep it is best to limit screen time at least an hour or two before bedtime. For other activities pre-bedtime routine try coloring. THIS is great for preparing your child’s body for sleep. You might just find that they fall asleep more easily.
Consider Their Sleep Environment
We all, even adults, sleep better in cave-like conditions. What I mean by this is; dark, cool and quiet. Think about your child’s sleep environment. Does it fit that criteria? I know in the summer (and early fall, here in Florida) it is hard to keep the house cool, but it is important. I recommend a temperature of about 68-72 degrees for sleep. Also, blackout curtains, blinds or even just anything that will darken a room (black garbage bags and tape) can do wonders for your child’s sleep. Lastly, a quiet room is vital. A white noise machine that is on throughout the night will help to block the noise from the rest of the house, so that your child can focus on sleep.
Keep It Up
Once you’ve got this all in place, keep it up for the school year. Yes of course it is OK to have flexibility – just think about this 80% of time you’ll stick to the plan and 20% of the time you can vary from it.
There’s no better time than now to start implementing some or all of these tips to help your child sleep a bit better, to ensure that they are getting healthy sleep. This is one of the best ways you can prepare your child for school, and keep them prepared.