School supplies? Check. Backpack? Check. First day of school outfit? Check. Sleep schedule adjusted? Uh-oh.
Sleep experts recommend adding your child's sleep routine to your back-to-school checklist.
“Anyone who’s had jet lag can relate to the feeling they can have when adjusting their sleep schedule,” pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Sally Ibrahim told the Cleveland Clinic. “When you try to sleep at a different time than what you are used to, your mind is foggy and you don’t feel sharp.”
And since school typically starts earlier than many kids (especially tweens and teens ) naturally wake, it's important to start shifting the schedule a couple of weeks before school starts.
Here are some tips, compiled from Ibrahim and the National Sleep Foundation, to help your kids avoid snoozing through their bus pickup:
- Work backwards: It's easier to reset your body clock by establishing a set wake-up time. Shift the alarm incrementally earlier so that your child will be alert at the breakfast table on the first day. Falling asleep earlier should follow naturally.
- Don't cheat on weekends: As much as possible, keep bedtime and wakeup time the same throughout the week.
- Establish a routine: "The last two hours before bedtime should be relatively quiet,” Dr. Ibrahim told the Cleveland Clinic, so turn off screens and pull the drapes. Encourage relaxing activities such as baths and reading.
- Practice what you preach: Model healthy sleep behavior, and be aware that sleep patterns change with age. Kids ages 6-12 generally need 9 to 11 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation, while teens need about 8.5 to 9.5 hours and adults need ranges between 7.5 and 8 hours.
- Take the big view: “I liken it to cigarette smoking,” Dr. Ibrahim told the Cleveland Clinic. “Smoking one cigarette does not kill a person, but long-term smoking does affect people’s health. If you don’t get enough ... quality sleep for a long enough period of time, it begins to take a toll on your health.”