Although we are still mid-summer, back-to-school/preschool/day care is just around the corner. Early mornings are looming, and hopefully earlier bedtimes to accompany these early mornings.
To help your kids (and you) head into school well-rested, I have put together some back-to-school sleep tips to get you back into a fall routine.
Give your child two to three weeks adjust from summer freedom to the schedule that comes with fall.
Although indulging in late nights and skipped naps helps you pack in the fun during our warmest season of the year, your best bet to get back on track for the fall is to start prioritizing sleep two to three weeks before school/daycare starts.
If your child has been going to sleep a couple of hours later than usual (or what will be needed for the early wake ups happening in a few weeks), start adjusting their schedule earlier by 5-15 minutes per day.
If they have been sleeping in, this means waking them a little earlier each day and then following with an earlier bedtime. Keep shifting their schedule until you reach an appropriate bedtime for them.
As you shift wake up time and bedtime, also shift snacks and lunch time to match the school or daycare’s schedule.
Allow for some quiet time before bedtime. Kids need time to wind down from the excitement of their day. If you are hoping for an earlier bedtime, this step is vital!
Follow the same steps in your bedtime routine every night. A consistent routine can provide a child with comfort and security AND it can cue them into feeling sleepy!
If you have a child who has trouble moving from one step to the next, use a timer on your phone to indicate when it is time to move on. This can help to reduce bedtime struggles and resistance. It also makes the timer the “bad-guy” instead of you;)
Think boring. Toys, books, or clutter can be very stimulating and can encourage play instead of sleep. If your child is a master at resisting sleep, you may need to remove these temptations to encourage solid slumber.
Black out blinds. These are great any time of year, but are especially great when the sun stays out past bedtime.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of daytime sleep. You may have heard the phrase “sleep begets sleep”. Well, it is absolutely true! Most kids still need a nap until between the ages of 3.5 and 5. When they are headed into busier environments such as school, preschool or daycare, sleep is so important for them to decompress. While kindergarteners may not need a nap by the time they reach school, they do still need some solid downtime during their day (45-90 minutes). And some will still need a couple of naps per week.
Darkness and bright light help to set our circadian rhythm. Darkness tells our body when it is time to sleep and light cues our body to wake-up. The back lighting that comes from TV and other electronic devices can interfere with a child’s ability to fall asleep if the exposure is within a 2-hour window of bedtime.
Great pre-bedtime activities include: puzzles, books, arts and crafts, and play dough.
Talk to your kids about the changes coming!
School, preschool, and day care are big transitions for little kids! These changes can come with worry, anticipation, excitement, and some stress. Talk to your kids in advance of these changes (in age-appropriate conversations).
Give them some tools to work through the big feelings that can accompany these transitions.
Try to have these talks earlier in the day so your child isn’t still processing the details when they should be sleeping.
I hope these back-to-school sleep tips help you and your littles enter the school/back-to-work season well-rested!
Andrea Galambosis a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach, and founder of Blissful Nights. As a former exhausted parent of 2 busy little boys, and a baby daughter, Andrea fully understands the toll extreme sleep deprivation can take. As a Gentle Sleep Coach, Andrea works with tired parents of infants and small children, helping them gently and lovingly teach their children invaluable sleep skills. As the children learn to sleep, parents are reunited with their own long-lost and desperately missed uninterrupted sleep.