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Back to School Essentials: What are the most important things you can do for your child before school starts?

As parents, most of us spend a considerable amount of time and energy before the first day of school making sure our kids have all the pencils, glue sticks, backpacks, gym shoes, notebooks, and lunch treats they will need for a successful school year. However, other than making sure that your child is up to date on his/her immunizations, getting your child’s sleep time back on schedule is the most important thing you can help your child do prior to school starting. 

School-aged children need at least 9 to 12 hours, and teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night. 

People who get enough sleep have:

  • Better school performance
  • Better behavior
  • Better memory
  • Better athletic performance and are less likely to get injured playing sports
  • Better mental health
  • A healthier immune system

We often operate on a different schedule during summer vacation: sleeping in, later bedtimes, late dinners, and relaxed screen time rules. Bedtimes and wake times are often 2 or more hours later in the summer than during the school year. Expecting your child to adjust to a different sleep schedule the day before school starts is a recipe for disaster. Try to adjust your child’s sleep schedule starting at least 2 weeks prior to the first day of school. Start helping your child adjust to school by waking him/her 15 minutes earlier in the morning and setting a bedtime 15 minutes earlier. Adjust the bedtime and wake times by 15 minutes every 2 days until the desired bedtime is reached. 

 Tips to help your child adjust to a healthy bedtime:

  •  Start a bedtime routine an hour before you want your child to fall asleep: dim the lights, take a shower or bath, brush teeth and put on pajamas early, then read books or do soothing quiet activities until bedtime.
  • Avoid TV, computers, cell phones and bright lights for 2 hours before bedtime. Keep TV’s, computers, and cell phones out of the bedroom!
  • Go to bed at about the same time every night including weekends.
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark. For most people, comfortable sleep temperatures are between 65 and 72 degrees.
  • Avoid eating within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid drinking more than a few sips of water within an hour of bedtime so your child wont need to get up to pee.
  • Avoid exercise before bedtime, but be sure to get exercise and exposure to sunlight earlier in the day.
  • Avoid naps if your child is in first grade or older. If your child needs to nap, make sure the nap starts before 2 pm.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Click here for more tips on healthy sleep habits.

If you have a teenager or young adult having difficulty with his/her sleep schedule or just not wanting to get to bed earlier click here.

If your child is having trouble with sleep, schedule an appointment with his/her pediatrician. 919-460-0993

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