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School and Masks and Sleep, Oh My!

Well it’s that time again when summer plans are coming to an end and the first day of school is right around the corner. Wait…did I just say the first day of school? Yes. Yes I did. No matter how much we want time to slow down so we can have more answers, the harsh reality is that it won’t. August is still approaching, the first day of school is still going to happen, and there will still be so many unknowns. This year the first day of school will most definitely look different than years past. Will your child be going back to school? Will she be starting out the year distant learning or be homeschooled? If they do go back, will students and teachers be required to wear masks all day and be kept at a safe distance apart? Will all of these changes work or will schools be closed in the first few weeks after reopening? These are the questions that are currently keeping me up at night…and based on my Facebook feed I know I’m not the only one.

Now what does this have to do with your child’s sleep? Well, no matter what decision you make about school, the summer will still come to an end and whether or not your kiddos are going back into the classroom, homeschooling, or starting a distance learning program they will need to get back into a consistent routine for everyone's sanity. If your family is anything like mine, all schedules have gone out the window for summer including later nights and lazy mornings, so how do we get our kids back on track with a consistent sleep schedule?   

  • Don’t Procrastinate- Don’t wait until the night before your little one is supposed to start school to try and adjust her sleep schedule. A child’s body won’t automatically jump to a new schedule, her body needs time to adjust. If you try to make this transition a sprint, you will more than likely end of with a very tired and very grouchy child for the first week which won’t be fun for either of you.
  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race- Prepare to slowly start making bedtime adjustments at least 2 weeks before school starts. Move bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights until you get to your desired bedtime.  Keep in mind that typically an appropriate bedtime for school aged children is between 7pm-8pm. If they have been going to bed later than that, plan on starting to make gradual adjustments over the next coming weeks. The later your child has been going to bed, the longer it will take for their bodies to adjust back to an appropriate bedtime for the school year. Check out the chart below to determine how long it will take to adjust your child back to the appropriate bedtime.

*Bedtime is when your child is getting tucked into bed, not when he falls asleep.

Current Bedtime

Desired Bedtime

# of Adjusted Hours

How Long It Will Take

10pm

8pm

2 hours

16-24 days

9:30pm

8pm

1.5 hours

12-18 days

8:30pm

7:30pm

1 hour

8-12 days

8pm

7:30pm

.5 hour

4-6 days

 

  • Morning Time- It is recommended that school age children get about 10-12 hours of sleep each night, and adolescents about 8-10 hours. As you slowly move bedtime earlier during this transition, you might need to also slowly start moving wake-up time earlier as well so your child is not sleeping in too late, making the earlier bedtime harder on both of you.
  • Sleep Meeting- Sleep transitions always tend to go more smoothly when the child can be involved in the process. Have a meeting with your child and let him know bed time will be changing.For younger kids that are having a difficult time with this change, make a bedtime routine chart and set up a reward system for cooperative behavior for the first week or two.   
  • Wind Down- Establish a relaxing bedtime routine to allow your child to unwind from the day. This routine should have relaxing activities, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or talking about their favorite part of the day. Also, during this time make sure to turn off all electronic screens. The light given off from a screen can be very stimulating to a child’s brain and can make it more difficult for them to fall asleep.
  • The Weekend is Not for Catching Up- Use your new consistent sleep routine during the week to allow your child to get the sleep he needs instead of trying to make up for lost sleep over the weekend. That way you can enjoy your weekend adventures as a family instead of trying to catch your little one up on sleep.
  • Avoid CaffeineA wonky sleep schedule is not the only thing summer brings. It can also lead to different eating habits for your child. I know my kids have their fair share of snacks and sweets during summer time that they wouldn’t typically have while at school. If they have been having sodas and other caffeinated drinks, try to limit them after 12pm.  It’s always a good idea to try and avoid any caffeine six hours before bedtime. The caffeine can interrupt your child’s natural sleep patterns, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Create a Sleep Sanctuary– creating a place that promotes calmness and tranquility for sleep will help your child get to sleep quicker and sleep better. Make sure the room is cool and dark. Put up those blackout curtains and turn up that AC unit so the room is somewhere between 68-72 degrees. Also try to clean up the clutter in the room so that your child is going to bed with a nice clean floor and won’t be tripping over toys or dirty clothes when he is trying to get ready in the morning.
  • Set an ExampleAs we know children have a  “monkey see, monkey do” mentality. They look to us as parents to set the tone and are constantly watching what we do. Establish your own regular sleep routine and let them see that you take your sleep needs just as serious as you take theirs.

Good luck with whatever the first day of school looks like for you this year, and I hope some of these tips will help make the adjustment a little easier for you and your family!

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

Laura

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