By Brittney Stefanic
Back to school, back to sleep
With the first day of school upon us, now is the perfect time to get started on a sleep schedule.
During the summer, regular bedtimes are disrupted by lazy mornings and late nights, so it can be difficult to suddenly switch over to school schedules and routines.
For children and teens heading back to school, getting a full night’s rest is vital to both academic and physical success where the body rejuvenates and restores itself in deeper stages of sleep.
It is within the stage of deep sleep where regeneration happens, where our body helps repair itself. During this stage, energy stores are rejuvenated and the immune system can be boosted. This is vital during the time of the back to school transition where exposure to bacterial and viral infections is sky high.
For children who are playing sports or more active once the school year starts, sleep is also important for the healing the muscular system after intense physical activity.
Another obviously important sleep need with back to school is knowledge retention and memory storing capabilities in the brain. Both of these are boosted throughout a good night’s sleep.
But we’ve never been a routine-based family
If your family is one that has always “flown by the seat of your pants” and let your kiddos take the lead on bed time and wake time, it may be helpful to get some sort of routine in place.
Children thrive off of knowing what comes next and being able to predict what the future holds. Since we can’t give them a crystal ball to help them see what their lives will be like in 20 years, we can, at least, give them a bedtime routine that is consistent from night to night!
To help get you started, here are my top recommendations for getting back in the swing of things at bedtime this fall.
5 tips for better sleep this school year
Tip 1: Be consistent– Create a bedtime routine to keep our minds and bodies happy. We always like to know what’s next! It doesn’t matter if your child is going into pre-school or will be a freshman in high school, 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.
Tip 2: Preserve the sleep environment -- The sun is “staying up late” and “getting up early” through the start of fall, so make sure the blinds in your child’s room are blocking it out. It can be really hard for little ones to realize it is time for bed when they can still see the sun! The late sun also has a habit of heating up the bedrooms, so set the thermostat somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees an hour before bedtime.
Tip 3: Screens be gone– Computer, TV, and phone screens all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking that it’s still daytime. My advice… Power down the electronics at dinnertime and keep them off until the next morning, and to minimize temptation, don’t charge devices near beds! Set up a family “charging station” to reduce the temptation and allow some screen-free time J
Bonus tip: Once screen are out of sight, reading can begin! Whether you’re reading to your kids or they’re reading on their own, 30 minutes 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. This is likely why so many of us find ourselves falling asleep while reading to our kids. OOPS! J
Tip 4: Blame the timer – Setting a timer is a great way of deflecting the blame away from parents for when bedtime is approaching. 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 their bedtime routine completed 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.
Tip 5: Be patient! Change is hard, and change in one or two nights is even harder! Two and half months of late a bedtime isn’t something you can just snap back from quickly. Your child is going to need some time to adjust, so give it time and stick with it.
What’s in it for me?
I know this seems like a lot of work, and in reality, it can be. But, if you are expecting your children to be healthy and strongly developed academically, the number one thing they need is sleep because it is during good sleep that growth and development happens. That should be motivation enough for an evening routine and early bedtime in your house.
And as an added perk… It’s far easier to catch up on the latest episode of Bachelor in Paradise if the kids are already in bed, right?
Brittney Stefanic is a certified sleep consultant. She gets that when our little ones don't sleep, the family struggles to function, especially with the start of school! You can find out more about what she does to support clients at brittneystefanicsleep.com, follow her on Facebook for sleep tips and tricks, @brittneystefanicsleep and see photos of her sweet toddler on Instagram, @brittneystefanicsleep.
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