After a summer of late nights and slack rules on bedtime, you may be having a hard time getting your children up for school. Here are some simple ways to get your kids back into a school-time sleep schedule:
- Figure out your child’s ideal bedtime. Kids need a lot of sleep. In fact, children ages 6 to 11 need 10 to 11 hours a night. Children ages 12 to 18 need at least nine hours. To figure out your child’s bedtime, do the math. For example, if your teenage daughter needs to be up at 7 AM to get dressed and out the door to school then she should be asleep by 10 PM. It is also helpful for kids to keep sleep and wake times about the same (within an hour or so) on weekends.
- Watch what they eat and drink. Large meals can make it difficult to sleep. Give your child some time between dinner and bedtime to digest food. Make sure your child stays away from sweets before bedtime and has no caffeine at least six hours prior to going to sleep.
- Exercise earlier. Kids should get at least an hour of exercise every day. While daytime exercise can contribute to sleeping better at night, vigorous exercise too close to bedtime may just keep kids awake. Therefore, avoid physical activity two to three hours before bedtime.
- Establish a nighttime routine. Routines are especially important for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Doing specific things before bed, such as bath and story time, signal to your child what’s coming next. Knowing what comes next is comforting and relaxing.
- Shut off electronics. Designate the hour before bed as a no-electronics hour. Light from TVs, computers and electronics such as tablets, smart phones and video games can disrupt the ability to fall and stay asleep. Make sure all electronics are out of your child’s bedroom at least one hour before bedtime.
- Make your child’s bedroom comfortable. The bedroom should be a quiet, comfortable and dark. A nightlight is okay, as a completely dark room can be scary for some children.
- Ask teachers whether your child is alert or sleepy during class. If there seems to be a problem, take your child to see a doctor or a sleep specialist.