Reset Your Child's Sleep Schedule in Time for the New School Year
by M.C. Millman
Set your children up for success this school year by resetting their sleep schedule after the more relaxed summer months.
Getting enough sleep is essential for a child's proper development. Sleep directly affects cognitive performance, learning and memory, alertness and attention, happiness, vocabulary acquisition, and more.
A few simple tweaks can make a big difference. Here are some helpful tips.
Children need different amounts of sleep depending on their stage of development. A consensus statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) provides guidelines on how much sleep children regularly need per 24 hours (including naps) to promote optimal health. If your child still naps, consider that when you add up typical sleep hours.
• Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours
• Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours
• Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours
• Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours
• Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens out of children's bedrooms, particularly at night. Screens should be turned off at least one hour before bedtime to prevent stimulating your child close to bedtime. In addition, the screen's blue light may suppress melatonin levels (a hormone that promotes sleep) and delay sleepiness.
Consistent bedtime routines help children's minds and bodies settle down and prepare for sleep. According to the Sleep Foundation, the routine can be specific to your child. Still, it should last around 20 minutes and consist of 3-4 quiet, relaxing activities. These activities can include a warm bath, putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, and reading. These routines provide comfort and familiarity to children, combatting the uncertainty of insomnia.
Gradual changes are the best way to adjust a sleep schedule before school. A good example of this is making bedtime incrementally earlier. By making bedtime 15 minutes earlier and wake times 15 minutes earlier too, you will soon be at the desired wake time for school with your children feeling rested.
Children should preferably be avoided because it is a stimulant that makes it hard to fall asleep and reduces sleep quality. If adolescents have caffeine, limit their consumption to mornings only, and be sure to avoid it after noon. Watch out for soda, coffee, energy drinks, and hidden sources of caffeine like tea and chocolate. Even decaffeinated coffee should be avoided close to bedtime because it contains trace amounts of caffeine that can impact a small child.
The Sleep Foundation also talks about making a "sleepy bedroom" for children as "an integral part of inducing quick and seamless shuteye".
The first thing mentioned is temperature. The body cools down in preparation for sleep, so keep the thermostat at around 65 degrees to avoid interrupted sleep from a stuffy bedroom.
Noise is another factor that can disturb sleep, even if the child doesn't awaken. Noise-blocking curtains, a fan, or a noise machine can reduce the ability to hear distracting sounds.
Dim the lights as bedtime draws near. Bedrooms should be kept as dark as possible to help release melatonin and support your children's natural biological clock.
If you tried all of the above and find your school-age child still has sleep issues, check with your doctor. A pediatrician can ensure there are no other underlying causes to the sleep issue and may suggest melatonin before bedtime on occasion.