Are you guilty? I certainly am! Guilty of having a blast with your kids this summer? Guilty of keeping them up past their bed time? Guilty of letting them sleep in a little later than usual? (I mean, who wouldn't jump at the chance to sleep in if your child allows it. It is kind of like spotting a unicorn; if you see one you go after it.) Guilty of allowing them to stray from the ever so important schedule they had during school? Guilty of being ready for them to go back to school? But, in a flash summer is coming to a screeching halt, and the school year is rapidly approaching. So, how can you prepare? Below are some tips to help your child to transition smoothly from those lazy summer days into those structured school routines. If you would like to give you child the best chance to be refreshed and well-rested enough to last through the entire school day, consider these suggestions:
1. START MAKING ADJUSTMENTS IN BEDTIME AND WAKE TIME, BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS. Chances are, over the summer both bedtime and wake up time has crept later and later. Now is the time to start altering your child's schedule. Start by waking your child up 15 minutes earlier each day and putting them to bed 15 minutes earlier as well. Do this until you have reached the time you child will have to get up for school. For some of you, school may have already started. If so, wake them at the new time, but continue to adjust their bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments until they are waking easily in the morning. Keep consistent with this schedule, even on weekends. Boo...I know you didn't want to read that, but children thrive on a consistent schedule. (Occasionally you can stray from the schedule once your child has adjusted successfully.)
2. EXPOSE YOUR CHILDREN TO SUNLIGHT AS SOON AS THEY WAKE UP. Natural light is the best was to reset your child's biological clock. Exposing them to natural light as soon as you wake them will help them adjust to the new schedule by suppressing melatonin, the sleep hormone. Open all the curtains in their room and greet them with a cheery "Good Morning". You may want to even consider having a picnic breakfast outside, if the weather allows it.
3. TURN OFF ALL ELECTRONICS 1 HOUR BEFORE BEDTIME. TV's, computers, iPhone's and iPad's emit a blue light which have the same effect as natural day light that helps fight sleep. Research has shown that children who use these devices before bed take longer to fall asleep than children who don't. You may find it helpful to turn off anything you are watching or playing with as well, so that you children may follow your example. After they are in bed you can always power them back on.
4. TRY TO GET THEM EXCITED ABOUT BEDTIME. Perhaps some new bedding, a new stuffed animal or new pajamas would do the trick. You can take them to the store and have them help you pick it out. They also may also get excited about new bubble bath or an interactive toothbrush. Have them help you lay out their clothes for the next day. Once all electronics are powered off, this is a great time to spend some quality time with your child in his or her bedroom. Play a quite game (this is not the time for wrestle mania), read stories or talk about your day. With a consistent bedtime routine your children will know what to expect and are less likely to battle you at bedtime.
5. MAKE SURE THE BEDROOM IS DARK AND COOL. Ever have a hard time falling asleep when you are too hot or too cold? 68-72 degrees is the optimal temperature range for the best sleeping conditions. Additionally, make sure your child's room is a dark as possible. Oftentimes, it is the smallest amount of light creeping in from behind blackout shades or a tiny nightlight that can cause trouble with children falling asleep and facilitate waking at night. If you child does need a nightlight to fall asleep, look for one on the red/orange spectrum.
Insufficient sleep can have lasting effects on children. It leads to sleep deprivation, which can be the driving force behind a number of things affecting including your child's growth and development, physical and mental health, social and family interaction, memory and learning and energy for daily activities. According to new research, children 4-12 months need 12-16 hours of sleep including naps, children 1-2 years need 11-14 hours of sleep including naps, children 3-5 need 10-13 hours of sleep and, children 6-12 need 9-12 hours of sleep.