Note from Hint Mama: It’s hard to believe summer is almost over, with the start of school right around the corner (and for many families, school has already started). Just in time, Nicole Johnson, a sleep coach and founder of The Baby Sleep Site, shares five tips for adjusting your child’s sleep schedule back to the school routine. Check out her tips below, and be sure to enter below to win a three-month membership to The Baby Sleep Site and an Express Sleep Plan.
If you’re anything like me and my family, summer time means fun time! Time to relax, swim, go to BBQs, do some travel, and spend time with family and friends. And it can also mean staying up later at night for activities and possibly sleeping later in the morning. So, reeling in schedules at the end of summer to get ready for back-to-school season can be challenging.
However, it’s got to happen! Studies have shown that chronic sleep exhaustion can affect children’s memory, concentration and focus. And we want your children to put their best foot forward as they return to school! So, here are five tips you can use to adjust their schedules, so they are ready to jump in, feet first, to the new school year.
Avoid TV, video games, phones and computer use an hour before sleep. This is a hard one for me to implement for myself, but studies have found that screens can interfere with sleep. Shutting off all screens an hour before you want your child to be asleep can actually help them fall asleep faster and sleep better.
Black out shades. It’s hard to convince your child that it’s bedtime when the sun is still up! My oldest daughter will say, “It can’t be time for sleep yet! The sun’s still awake!” That’s a hard statement to argue with! So, an hour before bedtime, start unwinding in the house, and close window shades, to help prepare your child’s body for sleep.
Get back to routine. Kids thrive on routine (many adults do, too!). However, with so many parties and travel during the summer, routines can go out the window. A week or two before school starts, start solidifying your child’s bedtime routine, to signal it’s time to sleep. Depending on the age and temperament of your school-aged child, they may need 60 minutes to unwind before sleep.
Give schedule changes time. Meaning, don’t wait until a few days before school starts to put your child to bed earlier. Ideally, start shifting their schedule earlier 1 to 2 weeks before school starts, because little changes every few days can keep them from getting overtired, as opposed to big changes, all at once.
If your child’s summer schedule has them going to bed later at night and waking later in the morning, then you’ll want to start waking them 15 minutes earlier than normal, every few days. An important piece to this puzzle in shifting schedules is shifting all meals earlier, too. Also, make sure you open the shades and turn on lights to expose them to bright light in the morning to help “set” their internal clock as to when they should be awake and when they should be asleep.
Prepare for school the night before. One of the nice things about summer is lazy days. Getting kids (and yourself, even) back to the structure of school can be challenging. So, even if your child is rested, getting them moving in the morning can be like starting a lawnmower, without gas! Having lunches made, backpacks packed, and school clothes picked out the night before can help mornings run smoother.
In a week or two, you and your child will be back in the swing of things and enjoying another school year. A little prep work can make a lot of difference to this transition. So, do yourself a favor and start making small changes now. But don’t forget to enjoy the last bit of summer!
Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep.” If you have your own sleep issues, maybe she can help you, too.