August 20, 2012
The shelves are stocked with back to school gear. Clothing, shoes, backpacks, lunch bags, binders, pens, pencils, and the list goes on. But, one of the best back to school tools a parent can provide their child is completely free – a healthy sleep.
A good night’s rest has been shown to improve mood, attention, focus and overall academic performance.
Back to School Sleep Tips
These tips are for parents and caregivers to help your child move on from those lazy summer days and get prepared for school.
Start Early – Most kids adopt later sleep schedules in the summer. But late nights and sleep ins don’t make the grade in September. Begin adjusting your child’s bedtime about 1-2 weeks before school begins. This is how long it takes for our biological sleep rhythms to adjust to their new time. Phase in the new bedtime and wake times; 15 minutes per day offers a gentle transition. You may find you need to enforce the same transition on the other end of their night with enforcing an earlier wake-up time.
Consistency – Don’t forgo healthy sleep habits and abandon schedules on weekends. With younger children, more consistency will be necessary, but older children might have a “weekend” bedtime that applies to Friday and Saturday nights. Do your best to avoid extremes: late nights or late morning sleep-ins.
Avoid Caffeine – Sodas, energy drinks, coffee (even coffee flavoured items like ice cream) have high amounts of caffeine. Intake of these should be avoided, especially after noon.
Wind Down – Exercise and socializing should be part of every child’s healthy day, but try to avoid both of those activities as bedtime draws near. Follow an age appropriate soothing routine.
Goodnight iPad! – Turn off the television, iPad, computer, phones or any other electronic devices at least ½ hour before bedtime, ideally 2 hours prior to bedtime. Blue light from these devices can limit melatonin production, which limits the onset and restful quality of sleep.
While following these tips will be helpful, it’s still important to watch for signs of tiredness or sleep debt.
Watch for signs of Tiredness
Be mindful of the following as your child starts their academic year:
Wake Time Battles – Trouble waking in the mornings, more than 3 days per week, means more your child needs MORE sleep. Make bedtime earlier or evaluate other circumstances which may be affecting sleep (night wakings, long latency to sleep, loud/excessive snoring, etc…)
Seek input – Check in with teachers to ensure your child is alert during class. If your child is showing signs of sleepiness, take steps to improve sleep quantity.
With healthy sleep habits, your child will be feeling refreshed and ready to tackle a new school year. Get out on the right foot with sleep habits. Establishing healthy sleep now is easier than breaking any bad habits later on.