School supply shopping is completed, new sneakers are purchased, and the upcoming soccer rosters and carpool schedules are hanging on the refrigerator. Sure-tell signs in my home that summer is ending and the start of a new school year is upon us. But what is the best gift you can give your child for the start of a new school year? Healthy sleep habits.
Sleep deprivation has many ways of manifesting itself in addition to feeling sleepy. Inattention, poor concentration, crankiness, meltdowns, behavioral problems, and poor academic performance are just a few. As the school year begins, make sure your child has good sleep habits and is getting enough sleep. A good night sleep helps your child be calmer, more alert, happier, healthier, and perform better at school.
A few things you can do to make sure your children get off to a well-rested start to school:
So-long Summer Nights: While enjoying summer nights it is understandable that bedtime creeps later and later. With school starting, a later summer bedtime combined with an early wake-up for school will leave your child sleep-deprived. Now is the time to prevent that from happening. Begin to move bedtime back to where it belongs. Shifting it earlier in 15-minute increments is an easy way to transition the bedtime until you get to a time where your child wakes up easily and feeling refreshed.
Be aware of the morning moods: If your little one is hard to wake in the morning or is waking cranky and grumpy, she is likely not getting enough sleep at night. An earlier bedtime may be in order.
Say no to TV: While a consistent bedtime routine is very important for our little ones, television and screen time should not be part of that routine. The purpose of bedtime rituals is to cue your child to begin to wind down and that it is time for sleep. Screen time actually does the opposite, which is why it is recommended that all screens (TV, IPad, computers, etc.) be turned off at least 90 minutes before bedtime (and the same goes for Mom and Dad!).
Be consistent: Children thrive on consistency and appreciate knowing what is expected of them.
• Use a timer so that your children know exactly how long their pre-bedtime routine is going to last. Don’t fall into the trap of “one more book” or “I just need a glass of water.”
• Even on the weekends, keep bedtimes as consistent as possible. Remember that each day your child loses sleep she is building up a sleep debt. Like all debts, even a sleep debt needs to be paid off!
Check in with teachers: Speak with your child’s teacher to be sure she is alert throughout the day. If she is having a hard time focusing in school, review her sleep habits. A good night’s sleep can have a drastic impact on one’s ability to pay attention at school.
Let’s set up our children (and ourselves!) for success as this next school year gets off to a great start!