Many of you have already started back to school, which is both wonderful and slightly terrifying-especially if you’ve been struggling with sleep. For those of you who are starting back this week or next, you have a little bit of time to help prepare your kids for a more structured schedule. For those of you who have been struggling with school mornings, these bits of advice will help.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, preschoolers ages 2-5 need approximately 11 to 14 hours of sleep; school-aged children ages 5-12 need approximately 10 to 13 hours of sleep each night; and children over 12 need between 8 to 10 hours each night.
Knowing this, you can make sure that your kids are getting adequate sleep. To do this, simply do the math backwards.
So, if your preschooler needs to be awake by 6:00 a.m. in order to get dressed and out the door, then your preschooler needs to be in bed asleep by 7:00 p.m.
Start working toward your new bedtimes and wake times slowly if possible, about 30 to 60 minutes at a time.
If your child has already started school and is fighting the new routine, try continuing your morning wake up time and school bed time through the weekends as well until they adjust to your new schedule.
Encourage “Wind Down” Time
We all know how disruptive loud noises and sounds can be to our sleep, which is why I recommend turning off the television, putting away tablets and smartphones, and having some wind down time about an hour before bedtime.
Along this vein, make sure that you do your best to get dinner on the table at least an hour (preferably 2) before bedtime. This way you give your child a chance to digest their food before sleep.
You can apply this same rule to caffeine, though I would prefer young children not have it at all, as it can make it more difficult for your child to relax and fall asleep at bedtime.
Sports and activities are fun, and help with our children’s development, but overscheduling our kids can actually hinder sleep. Do your best to limit your child’s activities to a reasonable number. This will not only encourage a regular bedtime (especially as our kids get older and sports practices go later), but will also help your child have downtime to help process their day.
Focus on Routine
Our kids thrive on routine, and our before school schedule is no different. Start a predictable routine so that your children know what to expect when they’re getting ready.
Focus on the items that have to happen, such as getting dressed and teeth brushing, and build a short morning routine around that. Make things even easier on yourself by packing their school bags, lunches and snacks the night before. Set out the next day’s outfits, and place their shoes and jackets ready by the door so you aren’t scrambling looking for them when you need to leave.
Likewise, the after school routine is just as important. Make sure that you encourage consistency with your child’s activities, including meals, and sleep, and you’ll have a happier, better sleeping child.
For children in preschool and kindergarten, be mindful of your child’s daytime sleep needs. Remember many 3 years old and some 4-year-olds still need an afternoon nap most days. It’s important that if your child needs a nap you do everything you can so that they get that rest.
For those children no longer napping, it is a good idea to utilize 45 minutes of quiet time to help them relax and recuperate after a long day at school.
Remember, a well rested child means happier mornings, and better sleep for you.
If you are struggling with sleep, fall can be a great time to incorporate some Gentle Sleep Coaching, like The Shuffle. I always encourage families to tackle sleep problems after vacations and travel so that they can be consistent for at least three weeks. This means weekends, too!