The start of school is a critical time to get kids adjusted to a consistent sleep schedule. Most children become used to staying up a little later and sleeping in more frequently during the summer, but as the school year gets under way, it’s important to move bedtime up and get back into a routine. Even now with this pandemic school has become virtual for a lot of our kids so going to bed early has most likely become not as strict for most parents.
Inadequate sleep is a frequent problem that worsens as school starts, and it’s a problem that leads to tired kids and tired parents — a very unhealthy combination.
How much sleep does a kid need?
School-aged children (5 to 12 years old) need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night.
Studies have linked sleep deprivation with mood swings and reduced cognitive function, including concentration difficulties, lower test scores and a drop in overall school performance. Poor sleep also is associated with poor eating habits and obesity.
8 easy tips for healthier sleep habits
- Aim for a bedtime that allows your child to get at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep. If your child is not going to bed early enough, make bedtime earlier by 15 to 20 minutes every few days.
- Set a regular sleep schedule. Your child’s bedtime and wake-up time shouldn’t vary by more than 30 to 45 minutes between weeknights and weekends.
- Start scheduling a regular wake-up time one week before school starts.
- Create a consistent bedtime routine (yes, even for older children) that is calming and sets the mind for sleep.
- Turn off electronic screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, particularly in the second half of the day.
- Help your child get ready for sleep by making sure he or she is getting enough physical activity throughout the day. Aim for at least one full hour of physical activity. “Outdoor play, particularly in the morning, is helpful because exposure to natural light helps keep your child’s circadian rhythm in sync,” Dr. Shah says.
- As with many habits, it’s essential to set a good example by making sleep a priority for yourself.