Better sleep habits for the school year

August 30, 2014 Editorial Staff
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While the freedom of summer vacation is every child’s dream-come-true, parents know the inevitable bedtime and morning routines are fast approaching. Achieving a successful Back-to-School sleep routine requires parents to plan ahead.

“Parents should start adjusting sleep schedules three weeks before school starts,” advises Dr. Monita Mendiratta, director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at the Maimonides Infants & Children’s Hospital. “In order for your child to be prepared for Back-to-School, the whole family should return gradually to a regular evening and morning schedule.”

An additional incentive for parents and children is this: numerous studies have shown a good night’s sleep means better grades in school. Mendiratta says that most children ages five through 12 need 10-12 hours of sleep per night.

Here are tips for getting your family back on a healthy sleep schedule.

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  • Adjust sleep routines in 30-minute intervals. Start today by sending kids to bed 30 minutes earlier, and waking them up 30 minutes earlier in the morning. After a few days, alter their sleep and waking schedule by another 30 minutes. Continue until you reach the proper bedtime for your family’s school schedule.
  • Create a relaxed bedtime environment. Children should begin to wind down a couple of hours before bedtime. Power down all electronics. Read to the younger children and encourage the older ones to read quietly before bed.
  • Avoid big meals and sugary/caffeinated drinks near bedtime. Children should finish eating at least one hour before their bedtime. Drinks high in caffeine or sugar are never a good choice for children, and are especially detrimental to sleep if consumed in the evening.
  • Make your child’s bedroom a comfortable environment. Make sure the room is dark, and the bed and temperature are comfortable. Televisions in children’s bedrooms are not recommended.
  • Don’t overextend your child. Keep extracurricular activities to a manageable level, allowing time for a relaxed period before bedtime every day.

“The most important thing parents can do is be consistent,” says Mendiratta. “Your children will be better prepared to learn, have stronger immune systems and better overall health if they regularly get a good night’s sleep.”

If you’ve planned ahead and your child is still struggling with waking and sleeping, Mendiratta advises that you consult your pediatrician for additional guidance.

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