By Rachel Turner
For those of you with kids, back to school time means getting back onto a nice, predictable schedule. Or so we hope. The first few weeks after the kids get back to class can be irregular, typically because they’ve been staying up late. Returning them to a proper schedule can be a bit of an ordeal, but here are a few strategies to get your little ones’ snooze cycle back in sync.
Don’t wait until school starts.
Two months of late bedtimes aren’t something you can just snap back from in one night. To help your child adjust, start moving bedtimes back by 15 minutes every four nights for a couple of weeks.
Set a timer.
This is a great way of deflecting the blame away from you; after all, it’s not you hustling them to get to bed — it’s the timer! Additionally, it can be a fun challenge for them to get ready before it goes off. Put a sticker on the calendar for every night they beat the clock, and offer a reward for a perfect week.
Turn off those screens.
Computer, TV and phone screens emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking that it’s still daytime. Power down the electronics at dinnertime, and keep them off until the next morning.
Routine, routine, routine.
It doesn’t matter if your child is going into first grade or their senior year of high school —a good sleep routine is essential. It’s not just about getting them physically ready for bed — the routine signals their brain that bedtime is approaching, which causes the brain to start shutting down in preparation for sleep.
Schedule an appropriate bedtime.
I can hear some of you saying, “My child usually doesn’t get tired until around 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., so I figure…” Let me stop you right there — bedtime should be 8 p.m. every night. No later. Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep a night, so unless you can wake them up and get them ready for school in half an hour, 8 p.m. it is.
Keep the room cool and dark.
The sun is setting late and rising early through September, so make sure the blinds in your child’s room are blocking it out. The sun also has a habit of heating up bedrooms, so set the thermostat somewhere between 65 and 70 degrees an hour before bedtime.
Allow some reading time.
Whether you’re reading to your kids, or they’re reading on their own, 30 minutes of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. The repetitive eye motion and low-level brain activity is a natural sedative.
Older kids with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of text messaging or web surfing if they’ve got their phones in their rooms with them. Keep their chargers in the kitchen and plug them in before bed.
“It doesn’t matter if your child is going into first grade or their senior year of high school — a good sleep routine is essential.
Rachel Turner is a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the Owner of Hello Sleep. Click here for more information.