The dog days of summer are winding down and back-to-school time is in the air. Like many parents, you may have let your child’s bedtime and wake-up time in the morning slide a bit on the later side these past few months. But now it’s time to start reeling in the reins on your child’s routine. Here are a few tips on how to get your child’s sleep habits back on track by the time the school bell rings:
- Implement a consistent bedtime routine. Ideally, this should start about 30 minutes before your child’s desired bedtime. Keep the order of the routine activities the same each night and have them take place in your child’s room, with the exception of bath. All activities need to be calm and soothing, such as reading books, puzzles, singing lullabies, listening to guided meditation, massage, etc.
- Gradually move your child’s bedtime back to a more acceptable time. You can do this in 15 minute intervals every few nights over the course of a week or so. For example, if your child has been going to bed around 9:00pm lately but you want to move it earlier, say 8:00pm, begin by putting your child to bed at 8:45 for a night or two, then move it to 8:30 for a few nights, then 8:15, and finally, 8:00. You may need to gradually adjust their wake-up time in the morning the same way if your child has been sleeping in a bit later during the summer.
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. On average, most children up to age 9, require between 10-11 hours of sleep at night. If you’re not sure what time your child’s ideal bedtime should be, do the math backwards. For example, if your child generally wakes up or needs to be up around 7:00am, his bedtime should be around 8:00pm. To find out average sleep requirements based on your child’s specific age, click here.
- Be sure to limit exposure to electronics at least 2 hours before bedtime. Letting your child watch TV before bedtime may seem like a calm activity, however, it actually interferes with his body’s ability to release the natural sleep hormone, melatonin. Instead, your child will likely have a release of cortisol which will make it harder for your child to fall asleep at bedtime. This goes for limiting exposure to video games, computers, IPads and the like before bedtime as well.
- You may need to move your child’s bedtime even earlier if he has been used to napping at home but will no longer be napping at school. Some kindergartens still implement a daily naptime, however, many do not. Going to school all day for the first few weeks can be a huge adjustment for your child. You may find that your kindergartener is melting down in pure exhaustion around dinnertime for a while. Move his bedtime earlier until he’s better adjusted to his new schedule. You may even need to sneak in a nap over the weekend to help him rest up from a busy week at school.
- Make sure your child’s room is “sleep friendly”. Moving your child’s bedtime earlier may mean it is quite a bit brighter in his room at bedtime, for a few more months at least. Installing black-out curtains or shades are a great way to ensure your child’s room is dark enough at bedtime. Using some sort of white noise in your child’s room can be help to shut out the outside world as well. Also, the ideal temperature in your child’s room should be between 68-72 degrees.
Whether you have a little one starting preschool or a kindergartener heading off for the first day of school in a few short weeks, I wish you and your family a happy, well-rested school year!
Do your child’s sleep habits need more than a bit of adjusting before school starts? If you’re stuck having to lay down with your child at bedtime in order to get him to sleep or maybe your child is waking up multiple times during the night and you want this to change before school starts, contact me NOW and let’s get started on a plan!
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