As summer comes to a close, it’s time to start checking items off your child’s back-to-school checklist. Along with new school supplies, your checklist should also include getting your kids into a healthy sleep routine.
Research has shown that sleep plays an important role in memory and learning, so getting the recommended hours of sleep is critical during periods of growth and learning, especially in younger people.
Tips for improved sleep habits
Here are a few tips to help your family get on track:
- Set a schedule. Determine what time your child will need to wake up during the school year to give them enough time to get ready and out the door in the morning, then determine an appropriate bedtime to get the recommended amount of sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that preschoolers ages 3-5 get 10-13 hours of sleep including naps, grade-schoolers ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours, and teenagers ages 13-18 should get 8-10 hours of sleep. Try making bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until the desired time is reached. Kids crave routines because it helps them know what to expect next. Their bodies also react to a predictable sleep-wake routine. While activities may change, try to stick to a daily schedule that has the same wake, eat and activity times.
- Keep electronic screens out of the bedroom. Monitor your child’s screen time including TVs, cell phones, computers/tablets, and video games. These devices should ideally be kept out of the bedroom and should not be used at least one hour prior to bedtime. Kids spend an average of six hours a day or more with electronic media. Studies have shown that the use of electronics can interfere with the production of sleep hormones. The blue light that is emitted from these devices can delay our natural release of sleep-inducing melatonin, thereby making it harder to fall asleep. Try having a central docking station for phones and other devices at night to make sure they are out of the bedrooms.
- Think about the environment. Create a sleep environment that is cool, quiet, dark and comfortable. Consider blackout curtains in your children’s rooms. Pay attention to things in their room that may be giving off too much ambient light, such as a digital clock, which can be disruptive to sleep. Consider dimming the clock or covering it up.
- Have a relaxation routine. Your kids should have a relaxing bedtime routine that is age-appropriate. This helps kids wind down. Give your younger child a bath or have your older child take a shower. Spending time together reading a story, saying prayers or reflecting on the day together is another nice way to end the day and get ready for sleep. The routine should be the same every night, so they associate all steps with sleep. The nighttime ritual is a great way to calm down the mind and get ready for bed.
- Be consistent and make sleep a family priority. Strive to keep regular bedtimes for the whole family, even on the weekends. Consistent, adequate sleep helps us function better and feel both physically and emotionally healthier. A consistent wake and sleep time sets the body’s internal clock. Kids learn by example, so parents should strive to set good examples with their sleep as well and discuss how sleep is important for us all. Just like healthy eating and exercise, sleep is important for our overall health. Families will benefit by prioritizing healthy sleep habits.
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