And a few tips from our sleep experts on how to get the whole family back into a healthy sleep routine
As we move from long summer days into the shorter, cooler days of fall, family schedules pivot sharply to accommodate strict school routines, boxed lunches and homework-before-play rules. Ditching flip flops and lazy summer days for laced up shoes that run for buses and after-school practices can make kids feel unbalanced and stressed. And as much as parents claim it’s the happiest season of the year, the stress on families is undeniable.
Sleep is important for everyone in the family, no matter our age. While we all need differing amounts, a healthy night’s sleep sets us up for productive, happy days.
“Sufficient sleep should be a priority for the entire family,” says Terry Cralle, RN, MS, Certified Clinical Sleep Educator and spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. “A well-rested parent is in a better mood, more efficient, more organized, more productive, has better relationships – not to mention healthier,”
How can you reset your sleep routine for the new school year? Cralle says the key to success lies in preparation:
- Preparing for a sleep routine change
- Adjusting your bedroom environment
- Establishing relaxed and stress-free bedtime sleep routines.
Let’s have a closer look at each of those points.
1. Prepare the whole family for a routine change into the fall season. Avoid the exhaustion that often follows the transition back-to-school by making changes in your family’s sleep routine ahead of time. Start moving bedtime earlier by 10-15 minutes each day until you’ve reached the time that will ensure everyone gets the sleep they need once school starts.
2. Tweak your bedroom environment ready for sleep success. Check everyone’s bedroom to ensure it’s primed for restful sleep. The bedroom should be as dark as possible by using blackout blinds and dimed alarm clocks. Cralle says, “If your child does not like a totally dark room, turn on a small night light – red or orange hue is best. Some nightlights have a timer and will turn off rather than stay on through the night.” A comfortable mattress and sheet set also help create a restful sleep space. Not sure what kind of sheets your child needs? Ask yourself 3 questions to find the best sheets for your bed.
3. Establish bedtime sleep routines to connect with your child every day. A consistent sleep routine and evening wind-down period beforehand should be the same every day – even the weekends. Your routine might consist of calming activities such light snacks, bathing, teeth brushing, putting on pajamas, reading a book or telling a story, cuddle time and finally lights out. Maintain these steps consistently, even when Grandma’s babysitting, and children will begin to expect their nightly routines, relaxing them and preparing them for sleep.
How much sleep does your family need?
Children and adults need varying amounts of sleep, depending on their age and genetic make-up. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers these sleep guidelines for parents.
- 4-12 months: 12-16 hours
- 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
- 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
- 6-12 years: 9-12 hours
- 13-18 years: 8-10 hours
- 18+ years: 7+ hours
Back to school tips from real families
Medical guidelines can be helpful for knowing how much sleep your children need, but sometimes the best advice comes from parents, the people who are struggling in the trenches. Just like you. We’ve gathered up a whole bunch of great advice from parenting bloggers.
“Routines are important for not only children but for adults too. We begin our back to school sleep schedules two weeks before school starts to help kick start our bedtime routine”
“Start preparing for your back to school routines early. Which means, don’t wait until the night before to reduce their time on the computer at night, watching TV, or using electronic devices. Being sleep deprived can affect their ability to focus and learn. I even realize it’s important to me as a mom to be more proactive during the day and with the best restful sleep, I can do just that.”
Michelle, Sunshine and Flip Flops
“We end tablet time and TV time early in the evening, and before bed focus on quiet activities like reading and snuggles. It helps us relax, and end the day on a positive note and everyone gets a better night’s rest as a result.”
“We start winding down a good 45 minutes to an hour before they go to sleep. My oldest child has trouble falling asleep so once his brother and sister go to bed, I let him do light exercises and meditation with me.”
Nancy, The Mama Maven
“Get your children to bed and up as close to the same times each night and morning, respectively, as you can. It will make mornings much easier, as well as implementing a good routine for sleep. That always makes for better days for the entire family.”
Jenn, Jenn Unplugged
“Start to get them on a bedtime schedule a couple weeks before school starts,”
-Kelly, Kelly’s Thoughts on Things
Want more sleep tips for your family? Check out these posts: