At the start of every school year, many parents face the problem of their children’s sleep schedule getting back on track. It can take weeks, months, or their sleep schedule may never resolve for school. Insufficient and poor quality sleep can make it difficult for kids to paying attention and concentrate, and can affect their moodiness, irritability, and impulse control.
Parents, here are eight tips to save you from moody, unfocused kids. Following these tips will help make your child’s transition back to school much easier.
1. Begin working on the back-to-school sleep-wake schedule two weeks before school starts. Start putting your child to bed 15 minutes earlier and set the alarm clock 15 minutes earlier every three days until it is the same as that required for school.
2. Keep this sleep-wake schedule the same on weekends.
3. Make sure your child gets plenty of physical activity during the day. However, restrict this to three hours or more before bedtime. Physical exertion too close to bedtime raises the core body temperature and inhibits sleep.
4. Have dinner at an earlier hour similar to when it would be during the school year.
5. Reestablish a bedtime routine such as a bath or shower followed by dressing for bed and reading. After a warm bath or shower the core body temperature drops in response to ambient temperature which is a signal for sleep. A calming routine such as reading to a younger child or encouraging an older child or adolescent to read to themselves can help to induce sleep.
6. Eliminate all electronics 90 minutes before bedtime. Televisions, iPhones, tablets, and video games all inhibit sleep. The television in the bedroom has been found to be the worst offender. They all emit blue light that disrupts the production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. They also are stimulating and thus inhibit sleep.
7. Examine your child’s environment. Room temperatures of between 65 to 70 degrees seem to be most favorable to sleep.
8. Consider what they eat. Avoid caffeine and sugars close to bedtime. They will make falling asleep more difficult. Avoid spicy foods near bedtime as they raise core body temperature and can cause acid reflux. Finally, avoid heavy meals within three hours of bedtime. The digestive tract will start working, causing uncomfortable bloating and indigestion. However, a light snack of a food high in tryptophan, such as dairy products or nuts combined with a complex carbohydrate such as whole-wheat crackers, can promote sleep.
For more about sleep, read my new book, Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day.