3 Sleep Tips to Prepare for Going Back to School
With summer coming to an end and school around the corner, many of us will be busy with back to school preparation, buying new shoes, clothes, lunch bags, books etc. However, it is also easy to overlook the preparation of getting back to sleep earlier too. Your more relaxed summer bedtime routines and schedules, in general, may need to be revamped. So, you might want to start thinking now about how you will adjust your child’s schedule to get him/her back in school-mode. To make the transition back to school easier, here are 3 tips to help you get back on track...
1. Ease back into a schedule
Why? If your child has been staying up a little later and sleeping in later, it’s a good idea to start moving bedtime earlier as you approach the first day of school. This will help reset their clocks and have a more productive morning in getting out of the house earlier. Otherwise, the first week or two of school your little one is likely to be overtired and less likely to concentrate during school hours.
Solution. About 10 days or two weeks before school starts, put your child down for bed 15 minutes earlier every few days until you reach his/her acceptable bedtime for their age (between 6:30 – 7:00pm for the younger munchkins and 7:00pm – 8:00pm for the older toddlers/kids). And again… be mindful of that bedtime. If no naps are happening for those 3 and 4 year olds, earlier to bed for sure! (Earlier to bed does not equate to earlier to rise). Then be consistent with that bedtime.
2. Reinstitute Daytime Routines
Why? Summer months often call for more relaxed schedules in general, but being out of practice with your school-months routine can make it hard getting back into school-mode. Perhaps during the summer your little one was taking naps in the afternoon but now that school time is coming around, they will be having a longer day with no naps. So, it’s a good idea to start adjusting to having no naps.
Solution. Leading up to the first day of school, have your little one skip a nap maybe two or three days of the week. (I know, can you believe I’m actually recommending that?!?! This is only for our older toddlers who are transitioning out of naps and into longer days at school. This is NOT for the 2 and even 3 year olds who still need that middle of the day rest). BUT, Having a skipped nap also means an earlier bedtime because they are going to be much more tired! Nip the tantrums and crankiness in the butt at nighttime by doing everything an hour earlier.
3. Consistent Bedtime
Why? It’s really important to avoid having your little ones try and play “catch up” on the weekends. Late night weekends or sleeping-in can throw off a sleep schedule for days. The scientific reason… sticking to a consistent bedtime helps keep circadian rhythms regulated (simply, our system that regulates the timing of sleepiness and wakefulness in our bodies).
Solution. It’s as simple as keeping bedtime consistent over the weekends as you do doing during the week. Keep bedtime the same for at least the first month of school (don’t forget it’s been 3 months of a more relaxed summer schedule). After this first month, it’s ok to have a later night here or there, but more “off nights” will lead to more sleep pressure (a need for sleep). It’s our body’s natural homeostatic control mechanism… the less sleep your little one gets, the more sleep s/he will actually need. So, the next day an earlier bedtime might be in order.
Remember… Once school starts, your little ones might be coming home more tired than usual, and that tiredness equals crankiness! Yikes! Be mentally prepared, so you can have enough patience when this happens and remember to take deep breaths (and maybe have a glass of wine handy... or two!) A few more bonus tips:
1. It’s also a good idea to keep afterschool activities to a minimum the first few weeks of school until they get their groove back.
2. Minimize electronics before bed.
3. Keep your bedtime routines no longer than 15-20 minutes, so your little one can get to bed on time.