Published: 08/01/2011 by Malia Jacobson
If you think your child will return to a school-year sleep routine without your help, you're dreaming.
You’ve purchased the new sneakers, taken your kids for a haircut, and filled those new backpacks to the brim. But if kids haven’t transitioned back to school-year sleep habits, they won’t be ready for the first day.
Trading summer’s relaxed sleep schedule for a school-year routine is an important part of back-to-school prep, says Dr. Roslinde Collins, a sleep specialist. If late summer bedtimes linger into the school year, kids will be subject to grouchiness, inattentiveness, or worse. “chronically sleep-deprived children often exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity and can even be diagnosed with ADHD,” Collins says.
Kids who get the required 9-12 hours of nightly slumber, however, are primed for school-year success. Proper rest helps children process and retain information, because memories are incorporated during REM sleep.
Don’t expect kids to fall back into their school-year sleep habits without some help. While you can’t make them celebrate summer’s end, you can plan for brighter mornings and happier days with some preparation. here’s how:
• SLOW AND STEADY. Kids depend on a regular sleep schedule, so don’t wait until the last day of summer to dig out the alarm clock. rising early after months of sleeping in can shock little bodies and leave kids in a daze during the critical first weeks of school. Instead, give them time to adjust to the new schedule. Beginning a week before the first day, wake kids 15 minutes earlier in the morning. continue adjusting wake-up time by 15 to 20 minutes per day until you’re all getting up at an appropriate time for their school-day schedule.
• EARLY TO BED, EARLY TO RISE. During the transition, also adjust bedtime. hitting the sack early isn’t enough, says Collins; kids won’t be tired enough to fall asleep at an earlier hour unless they’re also waking earlier in the morning. So it’s key to adjust both bedtime and wake-up time together. An hour before bedtime, help kids slow down to prepare for sleep. Draw the curtains to block out late-summer rays and limit stimulating television and video games. Spend time winding down as a family with books and other quiet activities.
• LET THE SUN SHINE IN. Once they’re up in the morning, let the sun shine in — fling open curtains to expose them to morning light, and serve breakfast in the brightest spot in the house. The light will reset their internal clock to help them fall asleep earlier at night.
• STAY IN THE GROOVE. Kids’ bodies and brains depend on consistency, so keep bedtimes in check even on weekends and school breaks. While sleeping in on weekends is a reality of our sleep-starved culture, it’s no substitute for good everyday habits. A general rule of thumb: “If kids have to sleep in more than two hours later than normal on weekends, they’re probably not getting enough sleep during the week,” Collins says.
Just remember, when it comes to sleep, kids are not little adults. “Parents often wonder why it’s hard to get their child up and ready for school after eight hours of sleep. They’re not done sleeping yet!” Collins says. Good school-year snooze habits will make this year their best yet.