6 ways to ease your child into a back-to-school sleep schedule
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Summer's end can be bittersweet. On the sweet side, your kids are excited to start the new school year, buy school supplies and see their friends. The bitter side? The battle to get them back on an earlier sleep schedule has only just begun.
But you don't have to lose sleep over your child's soon-to-be cranky morning wake-up routine. You just need to know how to play it – and when to begin changing things up. Here are six tips to make getting your kids on a back-to-school sleep schedule as easy as counting sheep:
The 14-day rule
Begin making adjustments two weeks before school starts by shifting your child's bedtimes and wake-up times. Make it a gradual process, changing the times at 15- or 30-minute intervals. This helps make the transition less jarring.
No time for screen time
To make the powering-down process easier, turn off all electronics (that means TV, computers, tablets and phones) in your child's room or in his or her possession at least one to two hours before lights out. This decreases the amount of stimulation they're exposed to before bedtime. And if your child has a TV in his or her bedroom, it's not a bad idea to remove it from the room altogether to help promote good sleeping habits.
Your kids shouldn't eat within two to four hours of going to sleep to avoid digestive issues. This may mean you have to adjust mealtimes.
In the afternoons leading up to the first day of school, make sure your kids get more physical activity than usual to help tire them out. Just don't let them run around before bed – exercise should stop two to three hours before they hit the hay to avoid overstimulation.
Minimize caffeine intake, or eliminate it altogether
Caffeinated beverages can disrupt sleep if they're consumed as much as six hours before bedtime. Don't let your kids have coffee or pop, and don't forget about other foods and drinks that can cause a caffeine buzz, like energizing sports drinks and chocolate.
Once you start making these adjustments, stick with them. Inconsistent bedtimes and wake-up times will undo the sleep progress you've already made.
After school starts up, be mindful of extracurricular activities to keep good sleep practices intact. It's not uncommon for kids to be overscheduled, jumping from one activity to the next. By the time they get home from sports practice or play rehearsal, eat dinner and do their homework, they may have already short-changed their slumber.
Fatigue can cause mental fogginess, lack of focus and trouble learning – definitely not the best way to kick off the new school year, or any time of year for that matter.
For more wellness resources you can share with you child, download our new app:
5-2-1-0 Kids! It's a fun way for kids to learn the importance of healthy habits. Parenting.com calls it, "one of the top health apps every parent should know."
For more tips on how to live healthy and be well, visit henryfordlivewell.com
Dr. Stacy Leatherwood Cannon is a pediatrician and the physician champion for childhood wellness at Henry Ford Health System. She credits her love of helping people as the reason she became a doctor and chose pediatrics because she is fascinated with children, their development and what she calls their incredible "bounce-back ability."
This story is provided and presented by our sponsor Henry Ford Health System.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.