Back To School Sleep Prep Tips

Back to school sleep prep tips
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

It’s that time again! Back to school for kiddos! This means we are sharing our back-to-school sleep prep tips!

For parents that have been trying to keep their kids busy and from not being “bored” all summer, school starting is a huge sigh of relief! We’ll miss the lazy days of summer, but I don’t know about you, long about September, I’m craving a little more structure and maybe a little pumpkin spice here and there!

For many families, this may be the first time that their children have been to school in person in well over a year, due to the pandemic. The schedule and routine adjustments of back to school are a big change for all families.

Sleep is important year-round, but our bodies and minds perform their best when we have a consistent eating and sleeping schedule.

So to help everyone who is adjusting back to our norm, here are our top back-to-school sleep prep tips!

Step 1 – Adjust Wake Time

If your summer schedule has been more lax and your children have been going to bed later than normal, it’s important to begin moving to the school schedule at least a week before classes start. The easiest way to adjust the schedule?

A week before school starts, begin waking your child at the time they need to wake for school.

This means even on the weekends!

HELPFUL TIP: To help with this transition, use the sun to your advantage. Open the blinds and curtains 30 minutes before your child has to wake up. The sun will naturally help your child to wake more gradually.

If your adolescent or teenager is sleeping in very late, after 8:30 – 9:00 am, you may want to start 2-3 weeks before school starts with moving the wake time and bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 days to help your child to adjust more gently. (and with less grumbling!)

Step 2 – Move Bedtime Earlier

If you are moving your child’s wake time earlier, you’ve got to compensate with an earlier bedtime. This will help your child meet their sleep needs to prevent getting overtired. 

School-aged children need between 10-11 hours of nighttime sleep to meet their sleep needs.  Teenagers need 9-10 hours each night. You can determine your child’s best bedtime by looking at what time they need to wake in the morning and counting back the required number of hours.  Ensure that you are getting your child into bed 15-30 minutes BEFORE their bedtime so they are settling in by the time they need to be asleep.

For example, my sons who are 7 years old, need a solid 10.5-11 hours of sleep to be well-rested.  They wake up at 6:30 am. 

Given this knowledge, I know that my children need to be asleep by 7:30-8:00 pm to meet their sleep needs.  I am tucking them in and saying good night by no later than 7:45 pm. 

HELPFUL TIP: Limit sunlight exposure 1-2 hours before bedtime.  Dim lights in the hours leading up to bed will help your child to settle to sleep easier.

Step 3 – Stop Screens 1 Hour Before Bed

This one is unpopular with the kids, especially if screen time has been more lax in the summer months, but try to limit screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime. 

This will help your child’s body to produce the necessary hormone (melatonin) to make it easier to settle into sleep. 

Blue light emitted by devices (TV, computer, tablet, phone) mimics the sun and tells our bodies it is time to be awake.  If your child has a hard time falling asleep it will cut into their nighttime sleep and can cause your child to be overtired.

Perfect pre-bedtime activities to help promote sleep include quiet play, coloring and reading. 

HELPFUL TIP: This is also important for adults.  Shut off your phone and pick up a good book! (or at least get some amazing blue light blockers!)

Step 4 – Consistent Bedtime Routine

If bedtime has become a lot more relax from a routine standpoint, it is time to bring back to create a consistent bedtime routine to help your children transition to sleepy time. 

Children crave consistency and routine so having a consistent bedtime routine helps them to adjust from play to sleepy time.  A good routine lasts in between 15-30 minutes, is not rushed and incorporates several soothing elements.  Consider a bath, then pajamas, cuddles and books.  Ensure that this is a calm time.

HELPFUL TIP: A connecting bedtime routine can help prevent bedtime battles because we are filling our child’s cup before asking them to separate from us for bed.

Step 5 – Watch Caffeine Intake

I’ve been guilty of the 3:00 pm coffee and then I’m watching the clock at 1:00 am knowing falling asleep is impossible.

Our children are especially sensitive to caffeine so in the afternoon and evening, avoid caffeine, including soda, chocolate, energy drinks and coffee.  Limit consumption during the day. 

HELPFUL TIP:  Look for sneaky caffeine, like in chocolate! For dessert and/or bedtime snack, stay away from chocolatey, sugary treats.  Berries and a cheese stick make an awesome bedtime snack. 

I hope these back-to-school sleep prep tips help the transition go smoothly for your family and you get into a good routine quickly! If not and you need some help reining it in, we’d love to help you get back on track! Schedule a discovery call today so we can talk about working together.

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