During summer vacation routines and sleep schedules get relaxed. It isn’t unusual for kids to have late nights and sleep-ins just because they can. But there comes a time when school is just around the corner and kids need to start preparing again.
It isn’t the best idea just to get the kids in bed early the night before school starts and throw them back into the school routine the next day. You’ll likely find you have a tired kid on your hand in the morning who isn’t mentally or physically ready to start the school year. Instead, try and start getting ready 2 to 3 weeks before school actually starts.
Gradually change the sleep schedule.
You can start actively moving your kids’ sleep schedule three weeks before school starts. Gradually move both their bedtime and wake up time in 15-minute increments every second day until they reach their normal school sleep schedule.
Get your kids involved in the change of routine though – talk to them about the changes you’ll be making and why you are doing it. You can even ask them how they’d like to be woken up in the morning – by you or an alarm. My kids are completely happy having me pop in and wake them up, but other kids will like an alarm clock.
It is important to aim for your kids to be back to the school sleep schedule one week before school starts. That week is used to maintain the school sleep schedule to give their bodies time to adjust and to practice going to bed and waking up at the appropriate time each day.
Having that earlier bedtime for a week also ensures your kids are getting the rest they need by the time school starts so they are ready to concentrate and learn at school. I also suggest not changing the sleep schedule on the weekends. Having the same sleep schedule all the time helps to keep the circadian rhythm regulated.
Tighten up the bedtime routine.
Bedtime routines can fall by the wayside over the summer vacation. With later bedtimes, you may just be getting your kids into bed quickly before it gets too late. So, start re-implementing that bedtime routine with some things like quiet play, reading, bath or soothing music. Bedtime routines will help your kids relax and wind down ready for bedtime as well as a sleep cue. Come school start time it will also be a great way to spend quality 1:1 time when you don’t see them for the whole school day.
Put away electronics.
Electronics have the capacity to impact sleep in multiple ways. The blue light they emit will delay the onset of Melatonin making it harder to fall asleep. Kids will also get stuck in the enjoyment of the game they are playing, the TV show they are watching and potentially not get to bed on time. Older kids who have their own phone may also lay in bed replying to friends. Electronics should be put away 1 hour before bedtime and shouldn’t be stored in the bedroom, where the temptation to get them back out will be high. If your child wants to read for a bit before bed, then suggest a physical book, not a tablet. You can model the no electronics rule too by also keeping yours outside their bedroom as well.
Make the bedroom environment soothing.
A good bedroom environment is important for a good night of sleep. Especially when you’ll be getting your kids into bed earlier but the sun is still out at bedtime. Blackout blinds will help to make the room dark at bedtime and to ensure that your kids don’t wake up earlier than they need to. Make sure that the room is cozy for your kids and that the room temperature isn’t too hot or too cold. Especially while it is still hot out.
Avoid caffeine and sugary foods.
Sugary foods and caffeine impact sleep. Caffeine should be avoided 6 hours before bedtime to ensure it doesn’t impact sleep. Eating well and exercising regularly also helps with sleep.
Make the last two weeks relaxing.
As kids are getting used to their school routine again it is important not to over-schedule them, making it harder for them to get into bed at a reasonable time and have the opportunity to relax and have quiet time before bedtime. The same can be said for the first few weeks of school. Sometimes in the early weeks of school, just school is tiring enough, so wait until they are used to the daily routine of school before organizing lots of playdates and classes. It is important to protect kids opportunity for downtime.
Start preparing their minds for school.
Have you heard of the summer slide? Kids can forget a lot over the summer months while they are concentrating on traveling or just fun in the sun. If your kids are reading regularly over the summer (which many schools build into their summer homework) then they’ll likely be okay. If not, make it a mission to get them reading on a daily basis whilst you are also working on their sleep schedule. My kids actually have what they call their “summer reading challenge”. They have challenged themselves to read for 20 minutes a day for the whole summer. They haven’t missed a day yet!
Practice school routines.
Not only is it important to start working on waking up earlier and going to bed earlier, but it is also important to get them used to the other aspects of school routines. Kids can start practicing getting up and immediately having breakfast and getting dressed for the day, instead of lounging in their pajamas. They can practice laying out clothes the night before, and their daily reading could be a way to start practicing homework – especially if you’d like to time it to be done around the time they usually do their homework each night.
Starting school again is such an exciting time, but it involves a lot of planning for parents. If you feel you need help starting a new school schedule for your kids, please contact to organize a sleep strategy session. I hope your kids have an amazing start to their school year!