Family Health

Getting on a Back-to-School Sleep Schedule

Published: July 16, 2018

Taking Things Slowly

Summer time often means late summer nights, vacations, campfires, fireflies and s’mores.

The first day of school can be an early wake-up call for many school children. How can we prepare our kids for that first day and ensure they get a good night’s sleep?

The best advice is to move gradually. If your school age child is used to going to sleep at 9:30 or 10 each night and sleeping in past the first school bell, gradually work to shift the bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night and push the wake up time 15 minutes earlier each morning. Start about a week before school starts so your child can wake up before school and feel refreshed.

How Much Sleep Does Each Child Need?

  • Preschoolers need 10-12 hours of total sleep. This can be exclusively nighttime sleep or night time sleep plus a nap during the day.
  • School-age children need 10-11 hours total sleep per night. A good target bedtime is around 8 p.m.
  • Junior high and high school students need 8 ½ to 9 ½ hours of sleep per night. Older teens aren’t tired until 9 p.m. or later

“But I’m Not Tired”

Any parent has heard the above phrase from their 3-year-old to their preteen. How can you ensure your child is ready for bedtime?

  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine stays in the body for at least 24 hours. Energy drinks in the morning or tea or soda can inhibit bedtime. 
  • Associate bed with sleep. Don't let them watch TV or play video games in bed. 
  • Avoid screen time (computer, TV or phone) 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Read a book or listen to calming music before going to bed.
  • Charge all electronic devices outside of the child’s bedroom so the constant ping of a text message or dull glow from the phone, iPad, tablet or laptop screen doesn't wake them up.
  • Encourage regular exercise. Gym class can count. If a child doesn't have gym, they can try to walk the dog or take an evening bike ride. 

Why Is Sleep So Important?

Studies have shown that getting a good night’s sleep promotes good health. Children who get a good night sleep have improved concentration, academic achievement, self-esteem and memory. There have been studies showing that children who don't get a good night’s sleep may run the risk of becoming overweight or obese. 

Can’t My Child Just Make It Up on the Weekends?

Unfortunately, if a child gets behind with sleep, they can’t make it up on the weekends. Continuing to stay up late at night while sleeping in on the weekends will make Monday mornings a tough wake-up call. 

What should you do if you make all the right choices but your child still can’t fall asleep at night? Talk to your Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician for suggestions.

About the Author

Pediatrician Dr. Elizabeth Walenz loves seeing kids grow as well as helping them lead long and healthy lives. She is especially interested in nutrition, growth and development.

Dr. Walenz sees patients at Methodist Physicians Clinic.

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