If your child’s bedtime routine during the summer has slipped with staying up late and sleeping in late, it’s never too late to get your child’s bedtime routine back on track. You want your child on a routine early because when the first day of classes rolls around, kids’ bodies (and minds) won’t magically adjust to the shift in timing. Children who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of experiencing behavioral problems at school, as well as a more difficult time with learning. To set kids up for school success, parents need to re-establish bedtime routines a couple of weeks before classes start. Follow these three steps to get your child back on a schedule that makes sense.
1. Adjust Bedtimes Gradually.
Starting two weeks before the first day of school, move your child’s bedtime five to 15 minutes earlier at night. The next morning, wake your child (or set the alarm) an equally incremental number of minutes earlier to match it. Continue this process every night until your child is waking at the same time that will be necessary once school starts. Keep in mind: Kids ages six to 13 typically need nine to 11 hours of shut-eye per night—so you’ll want to plan a sleep schedule that allows for this.
2. Introduce an Electronic Curfew.
Put an end to any form of screen time—including use of TV, computers, video games, and mobile devices—at least an hour before you want your child to fall asleep; exposure to these devices can delay the onset of sleep and shorten its duration. Although your kids may not realize it, the artificial blue light that’s emitted from these screens can suppress the body’s release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, thus increasing alertness and resetting your child’s internal clock (or circadian rhythm) to a later timetable.
3. Create a Relaxing Wind-Down Routine.
For about an hour before you want the lights turned off for the night, set aside time for you and your child to do quiet activities, such as taking a bath, reading a book together, telling stories, listening to soothing music, drawing or coloring, or engaging in another calming experience that will set the stage for a good night’s sleep. Repeating this pre-sleep routine every night in the weeks leading up to the first day of classes will help your child learn to anticipate sleep time, making it easier for everyone once school starts again.