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Back to School Means Back to Sleep: How to Get Kids On Track With a Good Sleep Routine

As a parent, you notice a difference in how your child feels and acts when they don’t get enough sleep. Despite this, many of us let sleep routines slide over the summer. We can get away with it when the days are long and obligations are few, but when school starts back up, kids need to be getting plenty of zzz’s. Start getting back into that routine early and troubleshoot any sleep problems now to make this transition easier.

 

What’s keeping your kids up?

Before you start thinking about a sleep routine, it’s easy to overlook some of the obvious reasons that kids may have a hard time sleeping. Comfort is key for kids as much as it is for adults, and a good mattress is the foundation. If an old, worn out mattress is affecting your child’s sleep but you don’t want to spend too much on a new one, carefully look at mattress reviews for an option that won’t give you sticker shock. Take a look at your child’s bedding and pajamas too. If they have any itching, congestion, or often get overheated, Today’s Parent recommends looking for low-allergen, organic cotton pajamas and sheets.

 

Is your routine conducive to sleep?

Along with a comfortable environment, your everyday schedule makes a big difference in how well kids sleep. Start getting into a back-to-school sleep routine early and gradually. Yale sleep expert Dr. Craig Canapari recommends moving sleep times back slowly and focusing on earlier wake times, because bedtimes will then eventually adjust.

 

As you start getting back into a better sleep schedule, look at how your daytime and evening routine impacts your child’s sleep too:

 

  • Work with the body’s natural sleep rhythms. Our bodies naturally produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. Exposure to light is one of the biggest factors that affects the body’s production of melatonin, and recent studies have shown that exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin production much more than any other light wavelengths. Electronics are the primary source of blue light, which means you can help kids’ natural sleep rhythm get back in balance by limiting screen time to early in the day.

 

  • Be selective about afternoon and evening activities. Parents sometimes think that wearing kids out (or letting them wear themselves out) will lead to better sleep. Getting plenty of physical activity earlier in the day is absolutely helpful, but maintaining high energy right up until bedtime can have the opposite effect on sleep. Since your goal is to limit electronics and high-energy activities later in the day, why not swap those out for lower-key, educational activities you can do together as a family in the afternoon? We love the science experiments from Earth Science Jr., such as making Elephant’s Toothpaste.

 

Start looking closely at what kids are eating too. Fatherly recommends spacing meals out throughout the day and avoiding a big meal at dinnertime. You also want to be aware of hidden sources of caffeine and sugar, and avoid fatty foods before bedtime.

 

  • Routine, routine, routine! Yep, it’s that important. Once you make sure your daytime routine is conducive to sleep, it’s time to get back on a good bedtime routine too. About a week before school starts, practice getting ready for the next day: packing bags, setting out clothes, and brushing teeth so you’re ready to head out the door. Then, create a bedtime routine that helps kids unwind and relax. Including a warm bath as part of your routine helps, as the body’s temperature drop from warm to cool after a bath increases melatonin and signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep. Then, read a good bedtime story (one that isn’t scary), and above all, be consistent!

 

Consistency is absolutely key to making the back-to-school bedtime routine work. You may be tempted to relax your routine over the weekend, but staying consistent will make it easier for kids to adjust and sleep better every night. Better sleep will translate into happier, more focused kids!

Photo credit: Pixabay

Guest article provided by:  Denise Long 



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