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During the summer, your kids might have gotten into the habit of staying up late for sleepovers and movie nights. Now that the school year is starting back, it’s time to ease them back into a consistent sleep cycle to set them up for academic success. We’ve put together some expert physician tips to make resetting their sleep for the school year easy.
How much sleep do they need?
Children of different ages need different amounts of sleep every 24 hours. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has a super chart to show how much your littles and bigs need between naps and nighttime every day. Here’s the hours needed for kids heading back to school this year:
Preschoolers (Ages 3-5): Need 10-13 hours of sleep including naps and nighttime.
Grade-schoolers (Ages 6-12): Need 9-12 hours every night.
Teenagers (Ages 13-18): Need 8-10 hours every night.
Why a consistent sleep schedule is key
Children feel secure and comfortable with the same waking time, meal times, nap time, and play times. They thrive on a regular bedtime routine, and getting enough sleep to meet their needs supports a healthier immune system, better academic performance, improved concentration, robust social skills, and overall better mood. On the reverse side, kids who regularly get less sleep than they need can become consistently irritable, be more susceptible to getting sick, and struggle to concentrate at school. Since our adult sleep schedules regularly have up skipping hours here and there, it may be tempting to think that kids can catch up on the occasional late night. But you can’t really make-up or catch-up on lost sleep, so a consistent schedule is key.
Easing kids into their school sleep routine
If your kids spent the summer staying up late and sleeping in, they might get a little sluggish now that they’re getting up earlier for school. If their schedule is shifting by as much as two hours, they’re experiencing a form of jet lag. The best way to prevent this is to ease them into it over the period of 7-10 days, by adjusting their bedtime by 15-30 minutes a day.
Other helpful tips to support a consistent sleep schedule
A routine before bed helps avoid over-stimulation just before bed and can help your kids fall asleep faster. For young children, starting early with a simple routine of brushing their teeth, reading a book, and then lights out should suffice. Some other helpful tips for their before bed routine, include:
Staying active during the day. Keeping your kids active with engaging and physical activities will make it easier to sleep at night.
Avoiding TV, Computer, and Phone screens before bed. Screens and monitors emit a blue light that makes it difficult for the brain to shut down for sleeping, so removing all media at least an hour before bed will make it easier for them to fall asleep fast.
Limiting their daily schedule. Lots of kids have after school activities like sports and clubs in addition to their daily homework. Avoid overscheduling their evenings, giving them enough time to wind down before bed.