If your kids’ sleep schedules have gotten off track during the fun-filled days of summer, here’s advice to get them on schedule and start the school year successfully.

Adjusting kids’ sleep schedules for school

Image Mom Putting Child To Bed Sleep Image Mom Putting Child To Bed Sleep Image Mom Putting Child To Bed Sleep

Lazy days and late nights. That’s what make summer vacation so special to kids and parents as they enjoy a less rigid schedule.

However, as summer vacation slips away, it’s time for school routines to creep back into daily lives. That includes getting a solid night of sleep to be sharp at school and less groggy in the morning.

If your child’s bedtime has slid back, here are some tips to get everyone on track in time for school, according to Laura Marcinczyk, a nurse practitioner with Sentara Pediatric Physicians.

Adjust bedtime by 15 minutes each night. 

One to three weeks before school starts, gradually adjust kids’ sleep schedules. Change the time kids go to bed by 15 minutes and the time they wake up by 15 minutes every one to two days until you reach appropriate sleep and awake times for school. If your children are two to three hours off their normal schedule, it’s wise to begin sooner.

Be patient.

Plan on a gradual adjustment of sleep schedules, rather than going cold turkey. Even with that, kids may still be cranky returning to a firmer schedule. Be prepared for some less cooperative behavior the first few weeks. Consider limiting after school activities at the beginning of the school year to allow time for children to adjust to more demanding schedules.

Say “No” to the screen. Read or chat instead.

Screen time before bed interrupts sleep, rather than promoting it. The brightness of the screen confuses the brain and disrupts the sleep cycle.

“Small screens, such as phones and iPads can reduce sleep by 20 minutes a night and keep the mind active, which is not conducive to the sleep cycle,” Marcinczyk says.

Instead, read to your children or have them read a book themselves if they are old enough. Talk with them about what they did that day and plan to do tomorrow. Discuss family plans and events to look forward to.

Engage kids in planning for the next day.

“I always recommend working with kids as a team while fostering autonomy and independence,”  Marcinczyk says.

That can include setting clothing out for the morning and packing homework and necessary forms that need to be returned.

Children can pack their lunch with their parents. This can also be a time to discuss healthy food choices. Parents and children can even discuss breakfast options for the next day.

A good night’s sleep and preparing for the day ahead will benefit everyone in the household. So start your back-to-school bedtime routine today!