Sleep Matters (National Sleep Foundation[NSF], Summer, 2017) offered some great tips for training the body to get to sleep earlier. As the new school year rapidly approaches, it is time to start instituting a modified “school sleep routine”. Here are some tips, adapted from the NSF to help your child get back into their routine:
1. Set a curfew for your child. Re-establish routine sleep and wake times. Try to make them as close to your anticipated school routine as possible (within reason). If your child has to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to catch the school bus, a reasonable wake up time before school starts would be somewhere around 6:30 or 7:00. No more sleeping in until late morning! The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends the following hours of sleep per age:
• Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
• Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health.
2. Exercise earlier in the day. The sun is still out until 8:00 or so, depending on where you live. In preparation for bed, children should not engage in strenuous exercise 4 hours before their designated bedtime. If your child has difficulty getting into the sleep mode, try some gentle stretches or yoga approximately one hour before bed to help relax them.
3. Avoid stimulants in the evening. Remember hidden sources of caffeine including iced tea, chocolate, and some flavors of ice cream. Offer foods high in tryptophan in the evenings to help promote sleep. Such foods include: seeds, nuts, milk, cheese, and most meats.
4. Re-institute your bedtime rituals. Summer makes everything a little wacky. Schedules often go awry with vacations and fun summer activities. In preparation for school, start “setting the stage for sleep” by doing those things that help to remind your child that bedtime is coming soon: brushing teeth, showering, putting on PJs, lowering house lights and noise, quiet play, etc.
5. Set an alarm. Help your child to wake up at your desired time by setting an alarm, just as you would for school. The trick is, don’t let them sleep through it!
Follow these guidelines to help transition your child (and you) back into the school routine. Your child deserves to start the school year with his or her best foot forward. A night of restful, restorative sleep will help them hit the ground running!