10 Back-To-School Tips for Healthy Sleep

Part of the “Make Sleep a Priority” Series

(August 3, 2018) — The transition from summer vacation back to school is tough on everybody, parents and kids alike. Because children are shifting from relaxed schedules — with flexible bedtimes and options for sleeping late — to strict bedtimes and early alarms for getting to school on time, the hardest part might be getting enough sleep.

Back-to-school grumbling about bedtime is a familiar part of the fall routine. But Dr. Anuj Chandra with the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders advises parents not to take that rough transition for granted.

“The three things that are necessary for life are nutrition, exercise, and sleep,” says Dr. Chandra. “Often, kids are in multiple activities and parents are taking them everywhere and getting back at 10:30 or 11. All that activity is coming at the expense of sleep.”

Loss of sleep should never be taken lightly. The resulting daytime sleepiness can hurt academic performance and even lead to car accidents for teen drivers.

There’s always going to be some friction as sleep schedules adjust to the new status quo, but parents can take steps to make the transition as smooth as possible and help their kids get enough sleep. Here are some tips.

1. Start adjusting sleep times early. Start resetting your child’s schedule to an early bedtime and wake-up time a little bit more every day. That’s much easier and more likely to succeed than making a sudden change. A two-week transition is ideal, but if it’s too late for for that, one week should be enough.

2. Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Once you’ve re-established a school-year sleep schedule, stick to it. Don’t let sleep times get cut short during the week and allow your child catch up on the weekend. A little bit of extra sleep on the weekend is okay, but staying in bed until the middle of the day completely wrecks the schedule you worked so hard to create.

3. Ease into bedtime with a relaxing routine. About an hour before the lights go out, be sure homework is done, bath or shower is complete, and clothes are laid out for the next day. If you follow the same routine every night, those activities will become familiar signals that tell your child it’s time to relax.

4. No electronics. Turn off television, video games, mobile devices and electronics well before bedtime. Parents, too, as your devices may distract your kids.

5. Keep cool. It is easiest to sleep when the bedroom is completely dark and the temperature is comfortable, generally a little cool.

6. Make the bedroom peaceful. Avoid temptation by keeping phone, television, computer, video games, and other electronics out of the bedroom entirely.

7. No caffeine. Limit any drink with caffeine (including sodas) after noon, and avoid them completely after sundown.

8. Avoid sleep disruptors. No big meals before bedtime. No strenuous exercise within six hours before bed.

9. Read a bedtime story. Even older children like the quiet sharing that comes from reading together. If they absolutely insist they are too old to be read to, have them read a calming book while you read to younger children or read your own book.

10. Be a good role model. Practice what you preach! Set a good example for your child by maintaining your own regular sleep schedule that keeps you healthy and feeling good.

This article is part of “Make Sleep a Priority,” Dr. Anuj Chandra’s education program to encourage healthy sleep. For other articles, visit SleepForHealth.org. Or follow the Advanced Center for Sleep Disorders on Facebook or Twitter (@AdvancedSleep).

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