It’s time for your child’s wakeup call
Summer fun means staying up late and sleeping in, but soon the whole family will be waking up early for school and homework.
It’s no fun getting back onto a normal sleep schedule—for parents or kids. But taking a few weeks to ease into the adjustment will make the transition easier on everyone. The sooner you begin the transition, the better your kids will feel when it’s time for the real thing.
First, it helps to understand that your kids need more sleep than you do. Children ages six through 12 should get between nine and 12 hours of sleep each night, while children 13-to 18-years-old should get between eight and 10 hours.
It’s also important to understand how vital sleep is to our health.
“When your kids miss sleep, they may be irritable, have a hard time concentrating, find it difficult to remember or process information and obviously feel drowsy,” said Catherine Wubbel, MD, director of the pediatric sleep medicine program at Geisinger. “Missing sleep is also linked to more serious problems like high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and depression.”
Up to 25 percent of kids experience trouble falling or staying asleep, and studies have shown that as little as a half hour of lost sleep will contribute to emotional issues, poor performance in school and behavioral problems.
Losing those precious hours also increases your child’s risk of obesity due to added strain on their internal systems and disinterest in regular exercise.
But all of these concerns can be avoided by transitioning back to a regular sleep cycle.
“Transitioning sleep schedules should be a part of all back to school prep because it’s essential for learning,” said Dr. Wubbel. “Kids use it to refuel and reenergize every night.”
First, if you’re preparing for a bedtime change, remember to include your child in the process.
“They will be more successful if they are involved in the decisions, in addition to feeling well-rested and excited to start the day,” said Dr. Wubbel.
Here are a few tips from Dr. Wubbel to ease into an earlier bedtime.
- About seven to ten days before school starts, begin setting bedtimes 10 or 15 minutes earlier each night. Do the same with their waking time.
- Avoid caffeine and big meals before bedtime.
- Unwind and relax. Start with “quiet time” after dinner by dimming the lights and putting away electronics—the brightness of their screens hinders melatonin and keeps you awake.
- Make a comfortable sleep environment that’s dark, quiet and cool. If possible, avoid having electronics in the bedroom.
- When it’s time to wake, open the blinds to let in bright, natural light.
- Repeat your bedtime routine every evening, even on the weekends, so their body and mind know when it’s time to wind down.
- Set a good example for your kids. Establish your own sleep routine ad promote healthy sleep as part of your daily routine.