Photo: Child lying down in bed

by Sabra Leomo, RD

Are your kids prepared to go back to school? Summer is winding down and school is on everyone’s mind. Prepping for back to school usually involves new clothes, shoes, and school supplies but often we don’t think about prepping for a back to school sleep schedule. Going to bed late and sleeping in may have become your child’s summer sleep pattern. While that schedule works for lazy summer days, when school starts up again being well-rested is incredibly important for a successful school year. Children that are well-rested have fewer behavior issues and are able to focus better in school. Face it, we all get cranky when we are tired. To help you get your kids on track for the school year, here are 5 sleep tips.

School Sleep Schedule - Start implementing your child’s school sleep schedule at least a week (preferably two) before classes start. Know how many hours of sleep your child needs based on age and work backwards for school wake up time. You can slowly start making bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach the optimal bedtime. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 10-13 hours of sleep for children 3-5 years, 9-11 hours for children 6-13 years, and 8-10 hours for teenagers 13-17 years of age1.

Limit Late Light - Dim household lights and create a calm environment at least an hour before bed to help kids wind down and relax. Especially limit using electronics like tablets, computers, cellphones, and video games 60-90 minutes before bedtime. The light emitted from electronics, called “blue light”, suppresses melatonin production… melatonin is a natural hormone made by the brain that triggers sleepy feelings. Blue light exposure before bed can result in taking longer to fall asleep and lower-quality sleep.

Electronic Exit - Limiting electronics before bed is a challenge…even for adults. Have a consistent plan in place for how to put electronics to bed. A designated area to place electronics, like a basket on the counter, can help limit temptation to check social media one more time or play just one more game. Setting a unique alarm on electronics can also be an effective way for kids to know when they have to put the electronics away. When the alarm goes off, the electronics make their exit.

Cut Caffeine - Caffeine is a stimulant found in many foods and beverages such as soda, energy drinks, tea, coffee, and chocolate. Caffeine consumption can interfere with a good night’s sleep and many of the foods and beverages that contain caffeine also contain large amounts of added sugar which can lead to obesity and other health issues. If your child consumes caffeine, limit the amount after 12 noon or at least 6 hours before bed.

Exercise - The more active your children are during the day, the better they sleep at night. They don’t have to play sports to receive the benefit of exercise; take the dog for a walk, play at the park, or do a fun kids yoga routine. Whatever they enjoy and gets them moving. The CDC recommends that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Add a consistent sleep schedule to your child’s back to school routine to help achieve success this school year. Have a happy, healthy, well-rested school year!

Footnotes: 

1 How Much Sleep Do Babies and Kids Need? National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-d.... Accessed 16 July 2018.