Can you believe it’s August! For some parents, that means back to school this month. I LOVE summer, but I also enjoy when the chaos winds down and we can get “back to school.” Re-aligning with steadier routines, especially at bedtime, helps us all sleep better. As Fall approaches, the days are getting shorter and darkness encourages better sleep. However, the transition back to school -like all change- can be met with resistance and often leads to over-tiredness.
The first few weeks after the kids get back to class can be a little irregular. Usually because we’ve been letting them stay up late. Returning them to a proper schedule can be a bit of an ordeal, but don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. Here are a few strategies to get your little ones’ snooze cycle back in sync.
* Don’t wait until school starts.
Two months of late bedtimes isn’t something you can just snap back from in a night. Your child is going to need some time to adjust, so two weeks before school gets back in, start moving bedtimes back by 15 minutes every 4 nights or so until you get to your desired bedtime.
* Set a timer.
This is a great way of deflecting the blame away from you. After all, it’s not you hustling them to get to bed. It’s the timer! It can also be a fun challenge for them to get ready before it goes off. Put a sticker on the calendar for every night they beat the clock, and offer a reward for a perfect week.
* Turn off those screens.
Computer, TV, and phone screens all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking that it’s still daytime. Power down the electronics at dinnertime and keep them off until the next morning. (This goes for parents too!)
* Routine, routine, routine.
It doesn’t matter if your child is going into grade one or grade 12. A good sleep routine is essential. It’s not just about getting them physically ready for bed. The routine signals their brain that bedtime is approaching, and the brain starts shutting down in preparation for sleep.
*Schedule an appropriate bedtime.
Every child is different, so you probably have a good idea when they should go to bed. This is provided, of course, that your idea is 8:00. “Well,” I can hear some of you saying, “my child usually doesn’t get tired until around 10 or 10:30, so I figure…” Let me just stop you right there. 8:00 every night. Full stop. No later. Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep a night, so unless you can wake them up and get them ready for school in half an hour, 8:00 it is.
* Keep the room cool and dark.
The sun is still staying up late and getting up early through September, so make sure the blinds in your child’s room are blocking it out. The sun also has a habit of heating up the bedrooms, so set the thermostat somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees an hour before bedtime.
* Allow some reading time.
Whether you’re reading to your kids or they’re reading on their own, a half hour of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. The repetitive eye motion and low-level brain activity is a natural sedative. (Which is why so many of us find ourselves falling asleep while reading to our kids.)
* Remove temptation.
Older kids with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of text messaging or web surfing if they’ve got their phones in their rooms with them. Keep their chargers in the kitchen and get them to plug in before bed.
If you still need help getting back in a routine or getting your little one to sleep better, just text “sleep help” to 1-570-436-3390.