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Back to School Sleep Tips

I can’t believe I am already writing this, but soon summer will be coming to an end and kids will be back to school. For some, this is just a few weeks away! Over the summer it’s easy to let go of rigid sleep schedules and allow more flexibility with later morning wake times and bedtimes. That’s part of the summer fun! Now that school will be starting again, it is time to start thinking about how to help their body’s adjust back to their school schedule.

Why is it important to have a consistent sleep schedule?

Studies have shown that children with consistent early bedtimes feel more alert throughout the day and perform better overall. Quality sleep is essential for children in improving their ability to focus, retain information, and it improves their mood! Having predictable and consistent sleep schedule in place helps your child’s body know when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake for the day.

Set a Consistent Bedtime and Wake Time.

The average sleep needs for school aged children (ages 6-13) is 9-11 hours of night sleep. This will vary depending on your child’s age and level of activity; however, I generally recommend 10-12 hours as a starting point. To determine when bedtime should be, count back 10-12 hours from when they need to wake in the morning and that will be bedtime. Watch your child’s mood when they wake. Are they super grumpy or having extra difficulty waking up? Then bedtime needs to be earlier as they likely need more sleep. Are they waking up content? Then bedtime is spot on! Are they waking much earlier than their wake time, ready to start the day? Bedtime may be too early. Push it later by 15 minutes.

Establish a Bedtime Routine.

Having a consistent, predictable bedtime routine is a great way to wind down for the night and it is a great distinguisher to transition from daytime play to nighttime slumber. A good bedtime routine should include relaxing activities - we want to keep it simple and no more than 30 minutes. See the example routine below!

1. Warm bath/shower
2. Brush teeth
3. Read books with parents or on their own 
4. Hugs / Kisses
5. Lights out

How to Begin this Transition:

Shift Wake Time AND Bedtime 15 minutes earlier.

We want to make a gradual shift back to an earlier wake time to prevent extra overtiredness as their body adjusts back to this schedule. A few weeks before the start of school, begin gradually shifting their schedule:

Start with Waking 15 minutes earlier AND going to bed 15 minutes earlier
Hold for 3-4 days then shift another minutes earlier for both wake time AND bedtime.
Repeat the process until you are at their new schedule times.

Set the environment.

Any time we change sleep habits it will come with some difficulty, so we want to set the environment up in way that will promote sleep and set your child up for sleep success! It will likely still be light out at bedtime, so it will be important to block out as much light as you can to create a dark sleep environment. Check out some of my favorite blackout options here. The main elements we want to focus on to promote quality sleep are:

1. Total darkness

2. Cool temperature (between 68-72 degrees)

3. Block out noise (use a white noise machine if needed to block out noise)

Avoid screen time at least 1 hour before bed.

Studies have shown that blue light before bed impacts our quality of sleep by suppressing melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy). It is recommended to avoid blue light from devices such as TV, iPads, phones, or video games at least 1 hour before bed. Eliminating screen time from their bedtime routine can help improve your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night.

Most importantly, have patience and be consistent. Changing and establishing new routines is not easy. You cannot expect your child to adjust in 1 night or even just a few days. It will take a few weeks (or more) and that’s okay! Having a plan, establishing consistent boundaries, and preparing ahead will help your child (and you) gradually adjust to the new sleep schedule. The more consistent you are, the better they will be able to adjust. By the time school starts they will be well rested and ready to take on another year!


If you are looking for some help getting back into a schedule after a summer of fun, I would love to help! Contact me here to schedule a 15-minute Free Introductory Call.


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