Going Back to School and Getting Back to Sleep

How to ease your way back into the bedtime routine this week

School is out and kids are ready for the lazy, hazy days of summer. Sleeping in and going to bed late are on the agenda. Routines are often thrown out the window during cottage vacations and long summer days. So it’s not surprising that when September rolls around, the first few months are tough for kids to get back into their routine – and everyone feels it.

The back to school transition can be tough and it's a good idea to start preparation and adjustments two weeks before the first day of school. This can help avoid a big transition for your child when they go back to school.

Communicate Their Sleep Needs

Discuss the importance of sleep with your child.  Ask them why they need sleep, how much sleep do they think they need, how do they feel when they are tired, and how do they feel when they get a good night of sleep. Opening this communication helps them understand why you are making the necessary changes to their routines.

Get Back to Appropriate Bedtimes

You need to reset your child’s internal clock back to their school routine. Have your child go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, as they will once they go back to school. Even on weekends, you shouldn’t stray more than an hour or so from bedtime. Appropriate bedtimes for toddlers and school-aged children are between 7 and 8pm.

Bring Back the Bedtime Routine

Begin implementing your consistent bedtime routine again with enough time for it to be a relaxed experience. A bedtime routine of similar activities each night sends cues to your child’s brain that it’s almost time to sleep, which triggers the release of the natural “sleep hormone” melatonin.  Involve your child and have them write out their bedtime routine.

Encourage Quiet Activities

An hour before bedtime, it’s time to wind down stimulating activities like TV, computer games, and Internet usage, which can make it hard for children (and parents!) to calm down before bed, and can cause sleep problems. 

Tip: Give your child a 10-15 minute warning before getting ready for bed so they are prepared and know what to expect.

Avoid Caffeine

Watch your child’s caffeine intake throughout the day.  Avoid soda, chocolate and ice tea in late afternoon and at dinnertime. Are you wondering if your child needs more sleep?  Signs of sleep deprivation in school-aged children can include:

  • Mood: A sure sign your child needs more sleep is when he has a hard time getting out of bed and appears grouchy in the morning.  Also, if he is showing signs of irritability or moodiness throughout the day, and/or displays behavior problems, such as noncompliance and hyperactivity, it’s time to log in some more sleep at night.
  • Cognitive Ability: Sleep deprivation can affect a child’s ability to learn.  You know what you’re like when you are tired.  It’s the same for our children.  Skills that are needed in school such as, attention, memory and decision-making can all be diminished due to inadequate sleep.
  • Immunity: The better rested your child is, the stronger their immune system will be to fight off colds and viruses that spread across the classrooms during the school year. Ick!


Alanna McGinn is a Certified Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant and Founder of Good Night Sleep Site.  She is a mom of 3 (1 + twins!) and is committed to helping families with their baby and toddler sleep needs. Visit www.goodnightsleepsite.com, @GNSleepSite, www.facebook.com/goodnightsleepsite, http://pinterest.com/gnsleepsite/

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