Quick Tricks for Back-to-School Bedtime Success
There’s no doubt that summer is the happiest time of the year for kids. With months of video game playing, water park splashing, and lazy days of movie watching stretched out ahead of them, what kid wouldn’t love the dog days of summer?
But as the fall approaches and the dreaded first day of school comes around once again, the thought of getting your kids back on a successful bedtime schedule can seem like a pretty daunting task.
For many of us, visions of waking up grumpy kids in the early morning hours dance through our heads, and we start to sincerely regret those carefree backyard baseball games and water gun fights that went on long into the evening, wishing that we had never allowed our little ones to get off a set sleep schedule in the first place.
The good news is there are ways to create a less painful switch back to a school days sleep schedule, as long as you follow the back-to-school bedtime tips and tricks we’ve gathered for you…
5 Steps to Pain-Free School Mornings
Adopting a successful back-to-school bedtime routine can be the key to smooth mornings and zero hair-pulling frustration. Take a look at these five steps to help your kids get up easier, make it to school on time, and tackle their days feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.
Step 1: Figure Out How Much Sleep Your Child Needs
One of the first steps to victorious school mornings is making sure your children are getting enough sleep each and every night. But how do you know how much sleep is enough for your little ones?
Although kids are as individual as adults when it comes to their sleep needs, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) has put out the following helpful recommendations about how much sleep children of all ages should be getting.
4 to 12 months: 12–16 hours (with naps)
1 to 2 years: 11–14 hours (with naps)
3 to 5 years: 10–13 hours (with naps)
6 to 12 years: 9–12 hours
13 to 18 years: 8–10 hours
Of course, making sure that your child is getting enough sleep is something that should be the focus for any parent, no matter the time of year, in order to avoid the scary effects of sleep loss, including poor judgement, increased aggression, and uncontrollable emotions. But it’s especially important during the school year!
Step 2: Calculate the Optimal Bedtime for Your Child
Once you know how much sleep your student needs to succeed with his schoolwork, your next step is to figure out what time he needs to turn in each night, based on what time he needs to get up on school days.
For example, if your kiddo needs to catch a bus at seven o’clock, and it takes him an hour to get ready, then she should be awake by no later than six in the morning. If he needs 10 hours of sleep to be fully rested, then a bedtime of 8 p.m. is the goal.
Counting backwards (as in the example above) is a good way to decide what bedtime your child should be sticking to, but you can also use a handy-dandy bedtime calculator to help you work out what time he needs to be in bed, with no math required!
Step 3: Make Gradual Sleep Schedule Adjustments
After you’ve worked out your child’s optimal sleep schedule, it’s time to make the switch from lazy summer evenings to the more regimented routine that goes hand-in-hand with school nights.
The key here is to make gradual adjustments to your child’s nighttime habits to make waking up earlier less miserable for everyone involved. Your best bet is to start at least a month before school starts for optimal results and work it slowly into your evenings.
For example, about 30 days before school begins, have your kiddo turn in 15 minutes earlier than he has been and keep moving his bedtime back by 15-minute increments every few days until he’s hitting the hay at the desired back-to-school hour.
Since school day schedules can be crazy, and it’s a well-known fact that falling asleep earlier can be harder than staying up later, you’ll want to help your child prepare for an early bedtime as much as you possibly can.
Try making your family’s evenings all about unwinding with quiet activities after dinner, call your little one in from outdoor playtime well before eating, and giving him gentle reminders that bedtime is approaching.
Step 4: Begin to Fade Out Light Exposure in the Evening
All forms of light create a stimulating effect that can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls the body’s sleep-wake cycle, making falling asleep more difficult.
Since you know that we’re going to be falling back thanks to Daylight Savings Time before much longer, you should set the precedence ahead of time by bringing your children indoors earlier (say around 6 p.m.) to help reduce light exposure and encourage relaxation.
This will help your kiddo become more comfortable with an earlier bedtime, give his body the extra assistance it needs to produce melatonin, and make everyone in the family happier when it’s time to wake up the next morning.
Step 5: Work with Your Child’s Natural Body Clock
During this whole process, it can be easy to become frustrated with your children, especially if they seem to have trouble getting up in the morning, no matter what time they went to bed the night before.
Keep in mind that we all have a natural “chronotype” and it dictates whether we’re night owls or early birds, and this can definitely come into play when doing your best to create (and maintain!) a successful back-to-school sleep schedule.
Don’t lose too much patience with kiddos that seem to naturally prefer turning in and rising later than others in your family. And don’t automatically assume that such behavior translates into laziness!
Research has shown that difficulty waking up is determined by the unique biological clock that we’re all born with and is most likely a genetic trait. But don’t look at this as an excuse to allow your little one to linger in bed. Instead, use it as an even better reason to create the right back-to-school schedule for your kid’s individual needs.
20 Quick Tips for Getting Kids Out of Bed
Now that you’ve learned the best ways to get your children started on the road to restful nights and triumphant days in the classroom, let’s take a look at some quick and easy tricks for how to make sure they’re waking up on the right side of the bed.
- Start on a positive note with a cheery greeting of “Good morning! I love you!”
- Wake them up by singing a favorite song or playing their chosen radio station.
- Don’t give into the drama by yelling at them to get out of bed or arguing with them.
- Cook their favorite breakfast to lure them into the kitchen with sweet or savory smells.
- Make a weekly trip to the donut shop (perfect for those dreaded Monday mornings).
- Create and post a simple morning checklist with around 5 steps for them to follow.
- Bring in a pet to wake them up and start their day with furry cuddles and kisses.
- Try an automated wake-up light to ease the transition from asleep to wide awake.
- Set your thermostat to automatically increase to warmer temps at wake-up time.
- Teach them to own the daily wake-up process with an alarm clock just for them.
- Help them to lay out their clothes, backpack, and lunch box the night before.
- If the sun is already up, open the windows to let in some natural light and fresh air.
- Let them experience the consequences of being late and why it’s such a bad thing.
- Stay calm and connected whenever you can to help create positive connotations.
- Be sure to keep weekends special and rewarding for everyone in the family.
- Talk with them about their plans for the day on the drive in or during the night before.
- Limit exposure to tech (TV, iPads, video games) to keep them focused and awake.
- Make sure they eat a healthy breakfast that will keep them feeling full and satisfied.
- Encourage them to make their own beds each morning before leaving the house.
- Be flexible, even if it means breaking the routine, to keep things moving forward.
Keep Things Positive and Proactive
Remember that nobody likes having to crawl out of their nice, comfy bed to get their day started, but heading back to school doesn’t have to involve ugliness and frenzied frustration, as long as you’re keeping things upbeat and moving upward and onward.
Your little ones are going to look to you for how they feel about school days (as they do with all things), and if they see you keeping your cool and not letting the inevitable bumps in the road ruffle you, they will take that positive and proactive spin with them into all of their days.
You want your kiddos to walk into that classroom feeling as calm and prepared as possible, whether it’s the first day of school or the last, and if they know they have everything they need, haven’t dealt with any drama at the start of the day, and are feeling well-rested, they will succeed almost without any extra effort on their part.
Starting early in the process of transitioning your children back to a happy and healthy school sleep schedule and morning routine is one of the best ways to ensure things go as smoothly as possible throughout the school year. And who doesn’t want that, right?
School is hard enough without throwing sleep deprivation into the mix! Getting your kids off on the right foot before it even begins is the optimal way to help you both win the battles of bedtime and betterment. Guaranteed.
Better Sleep for the Youngest Family Members
Just because your kiddos aren’t out bringing home the bacon, it doesn’t mean they don’t need a good night’s sleep to succeed! Check out these helpful articles about how to assist your little ones in getting restful sleep that will help them thrive during the day.