BACK TO SCHOOL: Back to a healthy sleep routine
By Lisa Lakey
For the U of A System Division of Agriculture
- Transition back to school year sleep routine should begin two weeks before school
- Hours of sleep depends on age of child
LITTLE ROCK - As the lazy days of summer slowly come to a close, children turn in swimsuits and swimming pools for uniforms and backpacks. And for most kids, back to school also means back to bed for those who have left behind routine for long summer nights.
“Kids who have been staying up later during the summer months may have trouble adjusting back to a school-time sleep schedule,” Lisa Washburn, assistant professor of health for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said. “Parents can ensure children are well rested and ready for the school day by gradually adjusting kids’ bedtimes so that they go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. The National Sleep Foundation recommends parents begin adjusting bedtimes about two weeks before school starts.”
Washburn recommends easing a child into a school time sleep schedule by pushing his or her bedtime back by 10-15 minutes each night until reaching their ideal bedtime. The same principle should be applied in the morning hours. This gradual change of sleeping habits, combined with a proper bedtime routine, should make the transition away from summer easier and help your child feel more prepared for heading back to school.
Another important component when ensuring a good night’s sleep for your child is routine. The same process of getting ready for bed each night will help prepare the child’s body and mind for rest. According to Washburn, a child’s bedtime routine should be consistent, relaxing and free from distractions.
“First, when a sleep schedule is established, stick with it. Consistency is key,” she said. “Start the bedtime routine 30 minutes to an hour before bed so that the child can begin to wind down and relax. Your routine might include a bath, teeth brushing and a bedtime story. Electronic distractions like TV, video games and computers, should be placed outside the bedroom. Try to create a peaceful and comfortable sleeping environment. A quiet and dark room, comfortable bed and cool room temperature can help.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep recommendations depend on the child’s age. Preschool children need 11-13 hours of sleep each night, while elementary age children need between 10-12 hours. Middle school and pre-teens should be getting 9-11 hours at night. According to Washburn, teenagers are the age group least likely to get enough sleep, with the average teen getting fewer than seven hours on school nights by the end of high school. Sleep is still just as important in the adolescent years. Parents of teenagers should see their children are getting 8.5 - 9 hours of sleep at night.
Although parents are likely to be met with opposition as they transition away from summer schedules and into a back to school routine, Washburn offers one last piece of advice to show that sleep is a top priority.
“Parents should be good role models by making their own sleep a priority,” Washburn said. “This communicates the importance of sleep to your child and helps to establish a home that values and promotes healthy sleep.”
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service