parenting

8 Tips to Reset Your Child’s Back to School Sleep Schedule

It is back to school time! Here are 8 tips that worked for me to reset my child's back to school sleep schedule! #BacktoSchool #Sleep #Kidshealth

The holidays are coming to an end and some schools have already started their school year. Besides getting those new books and other supplies, new school uniforms and all the accessories that go with school life, parents have a huge challenge.

Can you guess what that is?

Their children’s back to school sleep schedule.

Huge challenge to get these precious ones to get back to their routine. In an ideal world, all children would sleep and wake up at the same time every day of the year. But life is less than ideal especially with crucial stuff, so…

The thing is, holidays are relaxed and sleeping late becomes a habit. Of course the little ones are excited about not waking up early and rushing off—and the parents are relieved to be able to breathe a little.

I struggled with this when my son was in school. When I shoo-ed him off to bed, he’d say, “just five minutes” and the “five minutes” often stretched into an hour.

The result? 6 a.m. arrived and it would be a major task to get him up and ready for school. Of course, we made resolutions to stick to a sleep schedule the next summer—but hey—that’s easier said than done.

There’s no doubt that children need enough sleep to grow healthy. Summer vacation inevitably means staying up later than usual at night and sleeping in longer than usual in the morning. But they can’t afford to do this when it is back to school time.

So how much sleep is ideal for a child?

For children in the 5-12 age group, at least 10 to 11 hours of sleep at night.

For teens, nine hours.

Did I hear someone laughing? Because ironically teens do just the opposite!

When your child doesn’t get enough sleep…

There are scientific studies to prove that a lack of sleep affects physical and mental health—in a negative way. Not sleeping enough causes increased anxiety, depression, and fatigue. This leads to problems with academic performance.

Did you know that just one hour of sleep deprivation over the course of several nights can lead to drastic consequences?  The next thing you know, this gets in the way of good grades. Children find it harder to pay attention in class—they get fidgety and disruptive.

So what can you do to get your child’s back to school sleep schedule back on track?

It is back to school time! Here are 8 tips that worked for me to reset my child's back to school sleep schedule! #BacktoSchool #Sleep #Kidshealth

Here are some tips that worked for me. Let me mention that it takes work and effort, but oh so worth it!

1. Explain why sleep is important

We sat our son down and told him why getting enough sleep is crucial for good health and for doing well in school, in academics and sports. See, rather than just lay down the rules, it is important to explain the “why” behind it. I secretly think my sales training helped, because I became better at asking the right questions. I can’t help smiling when I think of the earnest expression on his face.

2. Begin early

Our target was three weeks before school was due to start. We started encouraging our son to get ready for bed a little earlier every day. He would happily stay up until almost 11.30 p.m., which was way past his school-day bedtime. We began with 15 minutes and built it up incrementally, every day, until he settled down to sleeping at 9.00 p.m. Nope, it wasn’t easy, but we did it. And we made sure we woke him up at 6 a.m.

Moral of the story? Do not wait until the last minute to do this! The good part is, when you persist with being strict about this, it becomes a habit—for the child to sleep on time.

3. Switch off the TV and go gadget free

Obviously, no one—least of all children—can just climb into bed and fall asleep. After the intense activity during the day, they have to wind down. This means no TV. No gadgets at least one hour before bedtime. More than an hour is ideal.

4. Make sure that bed is only for sleeping

I confess I love to read in bed—but that changed when our son started going to school. No, I didn’t stop reading, but made sure he was in bed fast asleep before I settled down with my book. If he saw me do it, we could be pretty sure he’d stay up way past his bed time, the little book worm! So, we ensured that he sat in a comfortable chair and read for 10 or 15 minutes before he got into bed.

5. Set that ambiance

Setting a consistent bedtime routine is important. Distractions in the bedroom are a big deal. Fortunately, our son was fine without a nightlight. We had a cute Donald Duck that cast a gentle glow but he loved to stare at it and start fantasizing stories, wide awake. Then one day, he told me he actually didn’t need a light. Duh. And oh, we kept the room quiet. Did have the radio on sometimes at low volume, but that was quite conducive to drifting off to sleep.

6. Be firm

If there’s one thing children are experts at, it is negotiating. One melting look, followed by a warm smushy hug and we parents—at least my husband and I—were putty in his hands. So we made sure we set rules, explained them to him, made sure he understood them. Lights off at 9 p.m. meant exact that. No compromise. Tough on us sometimes, when we had work to do, but you know what they say: no pain, no gain.

7. Teach by example 

This is the toughest part. Always tempting to stay up once the children are in bed and catch up with work or read a book or try to tackle the million things on that to-do list. But the truth is, adults need enough sleep as much as kids do.  So I recommend buddying up with your children and following a decent sleep schedule. Not only will this keep you healthy but also make it easier to get them on their back to school sleep schedule and routine. And believe me, it isn’t hard to fall asleep after a tiring day!

8. Set a routine

This is so important. Together with my son, I made a timetable. This included a sequence of events to follow for the night before, as well as the morning, and when he returned from school. Having a structure helps to make sure the morning goes smoothly. The night before, he would get his schoolbag ready, lay out his clothes for the next day making getting ready for school easy. Of course, my little hero forgot a thing or two and I solved this by taping the timetable to the inside door of his closet, along with his list of chores.

Oh, we made it a point to appreciate our son when he did something without being told. Examples are: when he woke up as soon as he was nudged, put together his breakfast and ate it, got his bag and shoes ready…and so on. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. It makes it easier to get back to the grind of schoolwork, homework, extracurricular activities and all those things that make up school days.

Bonus Tip

Teach them to set an alarm. This is a great habit to cultivate. The young ones love to fiddle with the clock and feel quite important when they set their wake up time. As much as I loved cuddling my son awake, on school days it was a bit tough as I was also busy in the kitchen getting lunch boxes and breakfasts ready. So we got him a cute alarm clock he enjoyed looking at on his bedside table. I suspect he would wake up just before the alarm went off just to hear it ring and turn it off.  Ha, ha…snooze is a concept that he learned only after he went to college.

Another thing: be kind. Love and logic invariably work in parenting. Sure you have to be firm, but that gets easier when you’re loving.

How do you tackle the change in sleep schedule when it is back to school time? 

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    Ryan Biddulph
    May 28, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    My parents did a good job getting us kids to bed for school Vidya. Well; me better than my sisters LOL. I was the kid who listened. Mom and dad said it was a school night and I needed to get to sleep. Good enough for me. Now I need to tell myself the same thing versus being up to 2 AM commenting on blogs.

  • Reply
    Janaki
    May 28, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Nice tips, Vidya. Guess I have to start implementing them now that school’s about to reopen.

  • Reply
    Anamika Agnihotri
    May 29, 2018 at 3:16 am

    Those were some extensive tips for getting the kids back to their school schedule. I believe you had a wise son who woke up by himself at the sound of the alarm, laid out his uniform and also fixed his breakfast. The thing which works for me and my son is keeping the rules same for both of us and following them as a team. But still there are logics and negotiations thrown into my face and then there is extensive talking about the whys and why nots.

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      May 29, 2018 at 9:25 am

      Anamika, that’s the fun part of parenting. And no, he did not always wake up with the alarm–he just enjoyed setting it and turning it off. More often than not, I had to cuddle and coax him out of bed Oh yes, it was teamwork all the way, because habits have to be demonstrated for any hopes of cultivating them. Just telling them never works! Negotiations? Oh boy. Plenty of those too. But yes, habit-forming is inherent in him and there are certain things he never questioned–like packing his bag and getting things ready for the next day. Bumpy path, but I enjoyed the ride! I say, have fun!

  • Reply
    shaivikafunda
    May 30, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    My kids are still too small to go to school, but since I have to resume office in 2 weeks, I could so much relate to the situation!

  • Reply
    Parul Thakur
    May 30, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    Those are some cool tips. I wonder if our parents tried that with us? 😉
    Parul Thakur recently posted…Nature’s painting

    • Reply
      Vidya Sury
      May 30, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      Parul, my Mom never had a prob. The household was up by 4 am. And I was quite independent. Sleeping late was unheard of. Dinner was at 6.30 pm and to bed at 8.30 pm except on Wednesdays when I had special permission to stay up for Binaca geet mala. Also Thursday was a holiday so..that worked. Life was different!

  • Reply
    Darla M Sands
    May 30, 2018 at 7:46 pm

    I was a terror when it came to bedtime. My dear, departed mother sort of gave up trying to force me aside from bedtime stories. I was always up for that! And to this day I lack a set sleep schedule, as if my body lacks a clock. So glad I no longer have school or work responsibilities! Namaste, my dear.

  • Reply
    Cathy Taughinbaugh
    May 31, 2018 at 1:15 am

    These are great tips for parents, Vidya. When my kids were little, bedtime became an issue at times, but being consistent helped me get my three kids to sleep at a bedtime that worked. Our summer is coming, so the late mornings will start again. This article would be a good one to reread in the fall when the US starts school again.

  • Reply
    Debbie L Hampton
    May 31, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Helpful tips. I think explaining why sleep is so important to your brain is crucial. I’m glad you included it. I don’t have to deal with little ones’ bedtimes anymore, but these are helpful for me too!

  • Reply
    Sachin Baikar
    May 31, 2018 at 8:37 am

    Informative and useful post 👍
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Reply
    Elle Sommer
    June 1, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    I think some of your useful tips for kids are pretty handy for adults too Vidya. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sandra Pawula
    June 2, 2018 at 3:16 am

    I’m sure many parents feel so frustrated by this. These are great tips that will help kids and parents too. I like the way you started 3 weeks early.

  • Reply
    David
    June 2, 2018 at 11:58 am

    Very useful tips. Thank you very much.

  • Reply
    Paige Burkes
    June 2, 2018 at 10:29 pm

    I could imagine how bedtimes could become a challenge. As homeschoolers of three kids, we don’t have bedtimes or daily deadlines. We all go to bed together around 9:30pm and wake up together around 6 or 7am. I’ve read in a few places that teenagers actually need more sleep (11-12 hours) because of all the hormonal changes happening at that time. From my own experience, that’s exactly when I could have used more, not less, sleep. Great tips for those who do have to work with daily schedules!

  • Reply
    Zeenat Merchant Syal
    June 4, 2018 at 2:05 am

    Love these tips Vidya! Will come in handy next week when my little one’s school reopen 🙂

  • Reply
    Addy Brown
    June 26, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    Try to establish a sleep-compatible environment for your child. That means a bedroom that is reasonably dark, quiet and comfortable in terms of temperature. Cooler temperatures tend to be more conducive to better sleep.

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