While the freedom of summer vacation is every child’s dream-come-true, parents know the inevitable bedtime and morning routines are fast approaching. Achieving a successful back-to-school sleep routine requires parents to plan ahead.
“It’s important to adjust your child’s sleep schedule before the school year actually starts,” explained Dr. Monita Mendiratta, Director of Pediatric Sleep Medicine at the Maimonides Children’s Hospital. “The whole family should gradually return to a regular morning and evening schedule.”
Dr. Mendiratta advises that most children, ages five through twelve years old, require 10-12 hours of sleep per night. As an additional incentive for parents and children, numerous studies have shown a good night’s sleep leads to better academic performance.
Dr. Mendiratta shares these tips for getting your family back on a healthy sleep schedule:
- Modify sleep routines in advance. Gradually adjust sleep schedules by sending children to bed 30 minutes earlier, and waking them up 30 minutes earlier in the morning. After a few days, alter your child’s sleep and waking schedule by an additional 30 minutes. Continue until you reach the appropriate bedtime and wake-up time for your child’s school schedule.
- Create a bedtime routine. It’s highly recommended that parents develop a routine to help children acknowledge bedtime. Consistently following the same routine will help your child associate such actions with getting ready for bed. Evening routines can include taking a bath or shower, telling bedtime stories, and giving goodnight hugs and kisses.
- Avoid big meals and sugary or caffeinated drinks before bedtime. Children should finish eating a large meal at least one hour before bedtime. Drinks containing caffeine or sugar are not a healthy choice for children, and are especially detrimental to sleep when consumed in the evening. Give your child a light snack such as a banana, a glass of milk or yogurt if they are hungry.
- Avoid large amounts of liquids before bedtime. Drinking liquids before sleeping can create unnecessary bathroom trips throughout the night. This can disturb your child’s sleep cycle, and create tiredness the next day.
- Avoid naps, especially if it will affect night sleep. Taking long naps in the afternoon or after dinner can affect your child’s sleep habits. If your child took a long nap during the day, it will likely be much harder to get your child to sleep at night, since they are already well-rested from sleeping during the day.
- Make your child’s bedroom a comfortable environment. Make sure the room is dark, and the temperature and bed are comfortable. It is recommended that the room temperature be between 60 and 67 degrees. Having a television in children’s bedrooms is not recommended. If your child needs a night-light, plug it into an area where the light won’t directly shine onto your child’s face. Direct light can interfere with your child’s ability to sleep and stay asleep.
- Don’t overexert your child. Keep extracurricular activities at a manageable level, allowing time for relaxation before bedtime every night.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Don’t confuse your child’s sleep pattern by making extreme changes to their bedtime on weekends. Try to keep the same bed time all week long.
“The most important thing parents can do is be consistent,” says Dr. Mendiratta. “Children will be better prepared to learn, build stronger immune systems, and have improved overall health if they regularly get a good night’s sleep.”
If you’ve planned ahead and created a routine, and your child is still struggling with a sleep schedule, Dr. Mendiratta advises that you consult your pediatrician for additional guidance. To make an appointment with Dr. Mendiratta, please call 718.283.7500 (Monday – Thursday: 9AM-noon and 1-5PM. Friday: 9AM-noon and 1-4PM).
The Maimonides Children's Hospital is one of New York City's leading pediatric hospitals, specifically focused on the treatment and care of infants, children and adolescents. We provide the full range of pediatric services, specialties and sub-specialties to ensure your child receives the best care possible. For more information on the outstanding clinical services provided at the Maimonides Children’s Hospital, please visit here.