Those yellow school buses are starting to make their morning rounds. As summer winds down and the new school year approaches, it’s important to make sure your children adjust their bedtime routines so they get the sleep they need to function well in school. If your kids are used to playing outside until it’s dark each night, getting them up early for the school bus the first couple weeks of school can take some doing.
The best way to adjust sleep times with children and teens is to do it gradually. Many children sleep quite a bit later in the summer so getting them adjusted will take some time. It can take at least a week to reset your child’s “body clock” and put it on a new schedule. Most pediatricians recommend putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier in the evening and then getting them up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to help them adjust. You can do some quick calculations to figure the number of days that will be needed to adjust your child’s schedule to the proper wake-up time.
Here are some tips to help your children adapt:
- At least 60 minutes before bed, try to limit television, computer, tablet, phone and other “screen” time. The blue light emitted from LCD screens can interfere with the body’s ability to fall asleep.
- Be sure to have something planned for your children once they are up. (You don’t want them to fall asleep on the couch an hour after they have gotten out of bed.)
- If you children have a really hard time getting up in the morning, try using two alarm clocks – with the second one being across the room so they have to physically get up to shut it off.
- Make a verbal contract with your child that if they get up on time during the adjustment period they will receive a small reward – such as their favorite dessert.
- It helps to have a “wind-down” routine as bedtime approaches. Reading and drawing are two activities that help calm kids down. Some parents give a small, healthy snack near bedtime.
- Make sure your children have a good sleeping environment. Just like adults, children sleep best in cool, dark, quiet rooms
- When school starts, it’s a good idea to plan the details of the morning routine the night before – from what your child will have for breakfast to what they will wear, so mornings go more smoothly.
If you are the parent of a teenager, it’s important to severely limit or avoid coffee and energy drinks as these beverages can keep your children awake long after bedtime. Chocolate and nicotine can also interfere with sleep, as can some medications. It’s good to know everything your child consumes to help avoid potential sleep problems.
What if you still have sleep issues every night?
If you have tried all the above methods and your children still have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you should talk to your pediatrician about your children’s sleep problems. Sleep problems are disruptive to a family and should never be ignored.
Some parents like to use melatonin supplements to help their children fall asleep. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body that helps trigger sleep. Although melatonin is available over-the-counter at most pharmacies, it should only be given to children under a pediatrician’s supervision. The dosage and timing of melatonin use with children is very important in order for it to work properly.
Whether your children fall asleep easily or naturally love to stay up late, making sure they get a good night’s rest is important to help them do well in school. So always make a point to practice good sleep habits throughout the year.