Summer (and really any school vacation), ignites a certain spark in children—one similar to what we see in their faces on Christmas morning. They come alive with new energy, soaking up every minute of their school-free schedule. But with this new light often comes fluctuating bedtimes and poor sleep hygiene, which will need to be remedied by the time they head back to the classroom.
Why is Good Sleep So Important?
Sleep is vital to staying healthy and performing well in school. Lack of sleep has been linked to:
- Greater risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
- Hyperactivity, irritability, and impulsivity.
- Problems with attention, concentration, memory, problem-solving, and decision-making.
- Increased frequency of illness.
Transitioning to a Back-to-School Sleep Routine
Getting kids back on track with a proper sleep schedule isn’t easy, but it’s obviously necessary. A good night’s sleep is vital for their academic success, as well as their overall health and wellbeing, which is why you should start preparing them about 10 days to two weeks before their first day back. It typically takes one to two weeks for a child’s biological clock to adjust to a new sleep pattern.
After a long summer of relaxation, adventures, and little structure, it can be tough to make the switch back to a typical school-night routine. Here are a few suggestions to make that dreaded transition a little easier:
- Wake them up earlier. Even just 15-minute increments each morning for the 10–14 days leading up to the first day of school will likely get you closer to a real school day wake-up time. It’s best to make time for a gradual transition to the new sleep schedule. But if you’ve lost track of time and are short on days, don’t stress! Just start as soon as you can.
- Cut down on screen time. It’s no secret that electronics can affect sleep, so you’ll want to stop screen time an hour before your kids go off to bed. Studies have shown that blue light screens, such as TVs, iPads, and computers suppress natural melatonin production, which decreases feelings of sleepiness.
- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine. Whether that be a shower or bath, choosing clothes for the next day, reading a story, listening to soft music—a soothing nighttime routine works like a signal to your children’s bodies, letting them know that it’s time to unwind and prepare for sleep.
- Limit caffeine and add exercise. Sodas and other caffeinated beverages should be kept to a minimum, especially after lunch, to avoid interference with your child’s sleep. In addition, incorporating a physical activity into the day will help tire your kid out. Everyone (not just children) sleeps better when they’ve exercised. And the summer is a great time to get outside and burn off some energy.
- Talk with your children about the importance and benefits of a good night’s sleep. Have conversations about how sleep will make them happier and smarter, and never frame it like a punishment. Going to bed should always be presented in a positive way. Instead of saying, “You have to go to bed,” say instead, “You get to go to bed.”
Sleep is a critical time for the restoration of our children’s minds and bodies. Prioritize it.