Summer may be a wonderful time of year to be a kid, but it can be a challenging time to get kids to sleep. Longer days with more sunlight; hot, stuffy bedrooms; vacation travel; and the lack of a set schedule can all contribute to kids not getting the rest they need — or getting it at odd times.
In a perfect world, kids would stay on the same sleep schedule year-round, whether they’re in school or not. But for most families, the end of the summer means the end of sleeping in.
To help school-age kids make the transition, try these tips:
Allow plenty of time. Begin resetting your family routine at least a couple weeks before school starts so everyone has the chance to adjust.
Make it a team project. Most kids are excited about going back to school, so let them know that getting back on a schedule is just another part of getting ready for the big day.
Don’t go cold turkey. A sudden change in routine may lead to tired, cranky kids, so try waking your kids 15 minutes earlier each day (or every other day), until they’re getting up in time to be ready for school. The same goes for instituting an earlier bedtime — 15 minutes earlier every day until they’re back in the swing of things.
Turn off the computers, smart phones and game consoles at least an hour before bedtime.
Cut back (or cut out!) caffeinated and sugar-sweetened beverages. Water is the ideal way to keep your child hydrated. Milk is a good choice for those children who tolerate it. Skip the energy drinks and soda.
Get their blood pumping. It’s hard to feel alert lying down in bed, so make sure kids are more than just technically awake — they should be up and moving in the morning!
When should bedtime be?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kindergarten and elementary school-aged children need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep every night. That means going to bed at 8 p.m. for a child who needs to be up at 7 a.m. Teenagers may get by on slightly less sleep, but they still need at least 7 hours.
If your kids are sleeping more than an hour later on the weekends, struggling to concentrate in school or taking a long time to get up, it may be a sign that they need more sleep. If they are still having these issues after setting a healthy sleep schedule, it’s time to see a doctor.