4 Tips to Get Back on Schedule Before School

child sleeping with teddy bear

Summer is a time of play, relaxation, and sleeping in; that is, if you are on summer break from school! Many children take full advantage of summer's care-free schedule, which often throws their sleep schedule way off course. In anticipation of school starting up again in August, it is important to get children on a regular sleep schedule. Ideally, this should be instituted at least one week before classes begin. Did you know school-aged children need on average 10 hours of sleep per night? And high school students need 8-10 hours per night. Unfortunately, about 60% of adolescents get less than 7 hours of sleep, which can negatively impact their immune system, school performance, mental health and memory (yikes!). Chronic sleep deprivation leads to irritability, high blood pressure, obesity, headaches and depression. Here are some healthy sleep tips to get back on schedule:   

1. Have a regular bedtime routine. Children thrive on a regular schedule, including their sleep. An example would be having bath time, reading a book, then going to bed. Aim to do this at the same time every night and have them wake up at the same time every morning. On weekends it is ok to sleep in for about an hour, but any longer and their sleep schedule gets thrown off again.   

2. Be active during the day. When children are playing outside or involved in sports, they expend energy that increases their ability to sleep at night. A variety of activities can accomplish this, ideally something they enjoy. Of note, it is also important to have a "wind-down" time in the evening, where they can decompress and relax.   

3. Have a supportive environment for sleep. Children should not have lots of toys or things to play with in bed. This causes stimulation and delays their bedtime. A favorite blankie and stuffed animal are appropriate. Also, all screens should not be allowed in the bedroom, including TVs, tablets, smartphones and computers, and their use should cease 30 minutes before bed.  The blue light emitted from these devices stimulates the brain to stay awake.   

4. Set examples as parents. Children observe and pick up habits from those around them, and a sleep schedule is no exception! When children see you practicing good habits, they are more likely to practice it themselves.

Stick to it! Try to keep bedtimes consistent throughout the school year, including weekends, so your child does not become sleep-deprived.

Aulbrey de Alwis, APN, FNP-BC, is an advanced practice nurse at SwedishAmerican's Pulmonary and Sleep Clinic.