Ah, the lazy days of summer. Back at the beginning of July it seemed as though they would last forever. But here we are with the end of August rushing towards us. Suddenly we’re in a flurry of back to school supply lists while the prospect of packing delicious and nutritious school lunches (that our children will actually eat) looms ever closer.
As we enjoy summer’s final camp outs and trips to the pool, we should start thinking about sending our kids back to bed as we prepare to send them back to school. The longer, laid-back days of summer often equate to a more laid-back sleep schedule for kids. This can cause problems when it’s time to head back to school.
Adequate sleep is essential to the health and wellbeing of school-aged kids (as it is for all of us!). Experts recommended 10-11 hours of sleep for children aged 7-12 and 8-9 hours for older kids. Getting enough sleep helps kids to stay alert and perform better at school. Lack of sleep can affect kids’ concentration, memory and problem-solving skills. It can also put them at a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.
So what can we do to help ease the transition from later summer bedtimes and longer morning lie-ins to bright-and-early back to school wake ups?
4 Tips for Sleeping Success
- Easy does it. Don’t just spring an earlier bedtime on your kids the day before school starts. Help ease them into it with a gradual shift over approximately two weeks. Try pushing their tuck-in time up by 10-15 minutes each night while waking them up 10-15 minutes earlier each morning.
- Keep it cozy. Establish a calming nighttime routine that includes reading and/or a warm bath. Create a safe, soothing and inviting sleep environment for your little ones to encourage relaxation and promote healthy sleep. Make sure the room is dark and cool and the bed is comfortable. Adding soft music or white noise can be helpful for some children as well.
- Set kids up for sleeping success. Encourage physical activity in the afternoon or early evening to help burn off energy, but not so close to bedtime that it winds them up instead of helping them to unwind. Turn off electronic devices one hour prior to bedtime and keep laptops, tablets and smartphones out of the bedroom. This will prevent noisy alerts, tempting games and disruptive light sources from interrupting their sleep.
- Lead by example. You don’t have to go to bed at 8:30…but you can model healthy habits by ensuring you are getting enough sleep. If you’ve relaxed your focus on healthy eating and exercising during the holidays, now is a good time to aim for a better balance. For kids who aren’t already in the habit, consider adding a daily multi vitamin to their routine to fill in nutritional gaps.