The back-to-school transition can really throw kids’ sleep schedules out of whack. This article offers some great tips from a pediatric sleep expert and real parents on how to get bedtime routines back on track. The key is being consistent – set an appropriate bedtime and stick to it, using rewards or consequences as needed.
Gradually move bedtime earlier in the weeks leading up to school, limit electronics and activities that disrupt sleep, and do a bedroom declutter. Make homework and unwind time happen earlier so kids are ready for sleep when bedtime hits. It may take some work, but getting a good routine established can make mornings and school days go much smoother.
Whether the school is about to begin or already started, I’m sure your family is experiencing sleeping pains. Part of the transition back to school each year relies on getting into a routine, and a big part of that routine is establishing (or re-establishing) a sleep routine.
Sleep routines are recommended during babyhood and, hopefully, grow with children. Our baby’s sleep routine used to consist of changing clothes, singing songs, dancing slowly in the room, reading stories, and, finally, rubbing backs for no more than 3 minutes until the baby was calmed. Over time, as the kids have grown, so have our routines. My oldest is similar to me in that he can’t wind down for bed without reading for 5-20 minutes. Middle enjoys quiet time in his room, often with a story being read to him. There are times when he’ll still ask for a quick back scratch. And Little still enjoys “kisses in the mirror” after her story each night.
But with changing summer schedules, we all know that there are times when our routines are a bit off-kilter.
Bedtime Routine Advice from a Pediatric Sleep Expert
Pediatric sleep expert Dr. Whitney Roban helps parents of children 4 months to 4 years gain the gift of sleep. She takes an emotional support approach to help develop a sleep routine that everyone can follow. Some of her favorite back-to-school tips include:
- Decide on an age-appropriate bedtime for your child for the school year. Each day, move your child’s summer bedtime 15 earlier until you reach the newly prescribed bedtime. For example, if your child’s school year bedtime will be 7:00, but you have been putting him or her to bed over the summer at 8:00, 4 days before school starts, begin to move the bedtime earlier in 15-minute increments until you reach the new bedtime.
- Create a Sleep Rule Reward Chart. Choose the most important of your child’s sleep rules and write them on a chart. Only include one sleep rule at a time. Your child can help decorate his or her sleep rule chart. Take your child to a 99-cent-type store and have him/her pick out a treasure chest and fill it with little rewards such as bouncy balls and erasers. Your child can help decorate the treasure chest as well. At wake-up time, if your child has followed the sleep rule, s/he gets to put a sticker on the chart and choose a reward from the treasure chest. The rewards chart has proven to be very effective in working with behavioral sleep problems.
- Stay consistent, firm, confident, and committed to healthy sleep for your child. With parents’ help, children can be taught good sleep habits, and families can be well-rested!
Bedtime Routine Advice from Real Parents
Of course, parent feedback is key as well, so I asked a few parenting bloggers for feedback on their routines now that school is/is getting back to session.
- Know what helps your child settle down and BE CONSISTENT! -Amy, A Million Boxes, mom of teens.
- Start at a minimum a week before school starts. Make all family members go to bed earlier. Look at what activities keep kids up late at night and start curtailing the use of said devices well before bedtime. Kids’ bedrooms can get very messy in the summer, so do a thorough cleanup and clear out. For instance, make sure that your child’s bed, desk, and nightstand are clear of junk. During the school year, my kids need to do homework and read in their bedrooms, and clutter is not conducive to studying or quiet time. -Jill, Musings from Me, mom of 2 teens and a tween.
- Begin bedtime routine at the same exact time, no matter what. My kids know that when 7:30 hits, it’s time to get ready. It’s gotten so great that they tell us when it’s 7:30. It’s important for them to understand that bedtime is bedtime. On a side note: I wish all of my stuff was done so I could go to bed at 7:30 every night. – Candice, Fashionably Organized mom of 2 elementary-aged kids and a preschooler.
- We started the week before school started. My 11 yo has a 9:30 bedtime. At my house, she is to be fully ready and in bed by 9:15. She can either read or play a game on her iPod for 15 minutes, and it’s lights out. Should she go over the bedtime, it is deducted the next night. Her homework is done as soon as she comes home, so she has the rest of the afternoon/evening to relax, unwind, and play outside. -Jacqui, Single Parent Retreat, mom of a tween.