Tips to Reset Your Child’s Sleep Schedule for Back to School

As the holidays come to an end and it’s back to school time, one of the biggest challenges that parents face is getting their precious ones to follow a good sleep schedule.  Of course, ideally, all children should sleep at the same time, and wake up at the same time, every day of the year.

I wish!

But thanks to longer daylight hours and so much to do in summer, sleeping late becomes a habit.

I used to struggle with this when my son was in school. “Just a few more minutes” became the refrain at home and those “few minutes” would stretch to a couple of hours.

The result? So difficult to get him up at 6 a.m. and get him ready for school. I would resolve to stick to a better sleep schedule next summer, and that’s really the right thing to do, making it easy for everyone. But that’s easier said than done.

The thing is, children need enough sleep for healthy growth. During the summer, they may have stayed up later than usual at night and slept in longer in the morning. But this is something they cannot afford to do when it is back-to-school time!

How much sleep does a child need?

Children aged 5 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night and teens must sleep at least nine hours.

What happens when you child doesn’t get enough sleep?

Scientific studies show that a lack of sleep can affect physical and mental health negatively. Too little sleep causes increased anxiety, depression, and physical pain. School performance suffers. Just one hour of sleep-deprivation over several nights can have drastic consequences. Sleep deprivation in children gets in the way of good grades, and paying attention. The lack of sleep makes the child fidgety and disruptive in class.

So how to get back to a sound sleep schedule?

Here are some tips that worked for me.

I explained why sleep is important

I sat my son down and told him why getting enough sleep is crucial for good health and for doing well in school, in academics and sports.

I started early

Three weeks before school was due to start, I started encouraging my son to get ready for bed a little earlier every day.  He would happily be up until almost 11.30 p.m., which was way past his school-day bedtime. We began with 15 minutes and built it up incrementally, every day, until he settled down to sleeping at 9.00 p.m. Nope, it wasn’t easy, but we did it. And we made sure we woke him up at 6 a.m.  So, do not wait until the last minute to do this!

I switched off the TV and turned off all gadgets

Obviously, children cannot just climb into bed and fall asleep. After the intense activity during the day, they must wind down. This means no TV. No gadgets at least one hour before bedtime.

I made sure he used his bed only for sleeping

We all love to read in bed, but we realized that this meant staying awake way past his bedtime, so we made sure that if he wanted to read, it would be in a comfortable chair for a few minutes before he got into bed.

I set the ambiance

I made sure there were no distractions in the room. Luckily, my son was fine without a night light. We did have a rather cool Donald Duck but I found that he would stare at it and imagine all kinds of stories and stay wide-awake. I had a major “duh” moment when, one day, he said he didn’t need a light. We kept the room quiet.

I was firm

Children are the best negotiators in the world. Add that melting look and a warm hug and parents are putty in their hands. So it is important to make the rules and make sure they understand those rules. Lights off at 9 p.m. means exactly that. No compromise.

I taught by example 

Of course, this is the hardest part. It is so tempting to stay up after the kids have gone to bed and catch up on work, reading and the million other things that make up our to-do lists! But what applies to children about getting enough sleep to stay healthy holds good for adults, too. So, buddying up with your kids and following a good sleep schedule is key to getting them on the back-to-school routine. And seriously, it feels good.

I set a routine

This is so important. Together with my son, I made a timetable for the night before, as well as the morning, a sequence of events he would follow every day. Having a structure helps to make sure the morning goes smoothly. The night before, he would get his schoolbag ready, lay out his clothes for the next day making it easy. Of course my little hero forgot a thing or two and I solved this by taping the timetable to the inside door of his closet.

Oh, did I mention appreciating him each time he did something without being told? Or when he woke up as soon as he was nudged? Yes, positive reinforcement goes a long way. It makes it easier to back to the grind of schoolwork, homework, extracurricular activities and all those things that make up school days.

How do you tackle the change in sleep schedule when it is time for back to school? 

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