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How can I help my kids switch from summer to school sleep schedules?

To get your kids' sleep schedules ready to wake up earlier for school, consider making their bedtimes a little earlier each night for a week or two before school starts. Sticking to a routine is important too, so don’t let weekends become late-night free-for-alls.

It's essential for kids (and adults) to get a healthy amount of sleep each night to stay focused throughout the day. Although sleep requirements vary somewhat among individuals, most adults need about eight hours of sleep each night, and children and adolescents typically need more than eight hours.
Here are a few tip and tricks I have used with my patients over the years to make the transition from summer to school a bit smoother:

• About 2 weeks before school starts, have your child go to bed 15 minutes earlier than they normally do, then after three days of this make it 30 minutes and so on, until they are within 30 minutes of what should be their normal bedtime.

• Begin to limit or eliminate caffeine intake by about 2:30 p.m., many people do not know that caffeine can stay in your system for 10 hours (this includes energy drinks as well). Check the label on some vitamin waters – they may have caffeine.

• Even if you cannot get your children to go to bed any earlier (which you really should try) get them waking up closer and closer to their school time wake up time. This will help provide an anchor to their already shifting biological rhythm.

• Exercising each day will certainly help their sleep, so keep them outside as long as you can (use sunscreen) and in the pool so they will be nice and tired (particularly for younger children) for bed. Remember to make the bedroom dark, as in many cases you may be asking them to go to bed before the sun has completely set.

• If they are into electronics in the evenings, start to have them “unplugged and powered down” an hour before bed. Have them relaxing, reading, and getting back into a bedtime routine.
You can help your kids to switch from their summer sleep schedules to the school-year sleep schedule by slowly pushing back their bedtime.

About a week before school begins, start getting your kids to bed earlier and waking them up a little earlier. By the time school starts, a child who's between 3 and 5 should be hitting the sack early enough to get 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night, and a child who's between 5 and 12 should be getting 10 to 11 hours of sleep; teenagers need about 9 hours of shut-eye.

To make sure that a child is able to drift off easily, keep her bedroom dark and quiet and remove electronic devices such as TVs, computers and handheld games. It's best if she doesn't watch TV or use the computer or drink caffeinated beverages just before she goes to bed.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
The right amount of sleep is important for kids and teens headed back to school. In this video, I will offer tips to get children back on a healthy sleep schedule.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.