ummer is over, and for kids and teens the days of staying up extra late and waking up at noon are long gone. Getting back on a good sleeping schedule is easier said than done, but it’s important to implement healthy sleeping habits to ensure success in the classroom. Experts say that children between the ages of 6 and 12 need at least 9 hours of sleep, and teenagers need at least 8 hours.1
Getting enough sleep helps keep your mind sharp, and strengthens your immune system. If kids don’t get enough sleep before school, they can suffer from irritability, lack of concentration and headaches.2
To encourage healthier sleeping times we’ve put together a list of 6 methods to try for school year bedtime routines. (These tips are helpful for adults, too!).
SLOWLY REINTROUDE EARLIER BEDTIMES.
A week or two before school begins, encourage your kids to go to sleep at an earlier time each day. Try starting with 15 minutes earlier, then a half hour, and eventually a full hour. This may require patience and firmness with your kids. For teens, this means aiming for a 9 o’ clock bedtime.
CREATE A NEW BEDTIME ROUTINE.
Implement a consistent routine for your kids every night before bed. It can be as simple as reading a chapter from a school book, or taking a bath and brushing teeth at a certain time. Doing the same thing every night may cue your child’s body that it’s time to sleep and allow for a peaceful transition into bed.
PREVENT CELLPHONE AND TABLET USE IN BED.
This is usually the hardest to implement, but the most important. You shouldn’t look at a cellphone or tablet before bed because of the blue light emitted from the screens. This light can reduce the production of melatonin in your body, which is the hormone that controls your sleep cycle. Also, the brightness keeps your brain alert and makes it harder for you to fall asleep.3 A solid practice is making the bedroom a cellphone-free zone. If that’s not possible, at least change the light settings on the devices to “night mode.” This reduces blue light and gives screens a warmer, darker palette that is easier on the eyes.
TAKE A WARM BATH/SHOWER BEFORE BED.
This is a quick hack that will help your kids get relaxed and sleepy before bed. You may have noticed that if you take a warm shower before bed, you have a better night’s sleep. Well, that’s because it works! Experts say that when you soak in a hot bath or take a shower, your temperature rises.4 When you get out and experience the “cool-down” period, it will likely relax you. Have your kids try this about an hour or two before bedtime.
EXERCISE MORE DURING THE DAY.
Getting to bed is easy when you’re actually tired. One way to get out all of that energy is exercise. Doctors say that adding more exercise to your day can increase total sleep time by up to 42 minutes.5 If your child participates in an after-school sport, then they’re already getting this oh-so important daily exercise! But even something simple like going on a post-dinner walk or bike ride can do the trick.
PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.
One of the best ways to get your kids to follow the new sleeping times is to follow them yourself. Your kids will more likely want to go to bed earlier if they see you doing it, too. If they hear you up and moving around when they’re trying to sleep, they may not get the right message (the fear of missing out is a real thing!) It might mean you have to go to bed an hour or two after putting your kids to bed, but it could be good motivation for you to get more of your much-needed 7 hours of sleep!