As pencils are sharpened, backpacks are selected, and the last few trips to the beach are made, it’s no doubt that back-to-school season is upon us. While the longer summer days may have pushed bedtime back and the subsequent mornings have started a bit later, it’s not too difficult to get back in the swing of things with time in order to make sure that kids are well rested and at their best for the academic rigors that await them.
While experts recommend not moving the bedtime back by more than an hour on weekends, and the same goes for the waking time, it’s understandable if a new norm established itself over the summer. That said, it’s best not to wait until the night before the first day of school to adjust your child’s sleep schedule in preparation for the new school year.
Reestablishing the school sleep schedule
- Try to adjust the bedtime/waking time gradually until the child is back to a regular school sleep schedule. For example, the bedtime and waking time can be moved in 30-minute increments every few days until the child’s schedule has returned to the appropriate school-year sleep schedule.
- Keep the bedtime routine consistent and without stimulation just before bed. Books are great but avoid electronics and television 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
- It’s best to avoid sugar and caffeinated beverages in preparation for a good night’s rest.
- During the school year, it’s best to follow that hour rule of thumb for weekend bedtime and waking time.
Ensuring proper rest will assist your child in paying attention, learning and retaining new information. Studies show that a lack of sleep can hinder these processes, so making sure that your little one is well rested will certainly help the learning process in school.
How much sleep does your child need?
While the best rule of thumb is that a happy, healthy child is usually a well-rested child, some suggested norms are:
- Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 3 will sleep 12–14 hours in a 24-hour period.
- Preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 5 usually sleep 11–14 hours per day and drop their naps by 5 years of age.
- School-age children between the ages of 5 and 12 need 10 or 11 hours of sleep.
- The average adolescents will sleep about 9 hours a day as their sleep physiology changes.
With the increasing demands of a new school year and the extracurricular activities that go along with it, it’s never too early to prioritize sleep. August is the perfect month to get that back-to-school routine established in order to be well rested and ready for the new school year that awaits.
– Melissa Rettmann, M.S., PA-C, has a background in pediatrics and allergy. She is the mother of a toddler and volunteers with the Parenting Program.
Resources: National Sleep Foundation and Nelson’s Essentials of Pediatrics