How to Finally Get Your Back-to-School Sleep Routine Right

While I can't promise the back-to-school transition will ever be seamless, there is a better way. If you want to finally stop battling over sleep and start the school year with well-rested kids, here's what you need to do...

How to Finally Get Your Back-to-School Sleep Routine Right

After letting the kids stay up late or sleep in over the summer months, it’s time to get their sleep schedule back on track for the school year. But even though it happens every year, switching to early bedtimes is always a struggle. Kids protest, bedtimes get delayed, kids wake up groggy and the cycle repeats.

While I can’t promise the back-to-school transition will ever be seamless, there is a better way. If you want to finally stop battling over sleep and start the school year with well-rested kids, here’s what you need to do:

1. Set Age-Appropriate Bedtimes

According to Sleep.org, this is how much sleep school-aged kids need based on their age:

3-5 years: 10-13 hours

6-13 years: 9-11 hours

14-17 years: 8-10 hours

To determine a bedtime for your children, count backward from the time they need to be up for school. For example, if teens need to wake up at 6 a.m., the latest acceptable bedtime is 10 p.m. However, as a parent, you know your kids aren’t falling asleep the moment they hit the pillow. Schedule a slightly earlier bedtime so kids have time to settle in and drift off to sleep.

2. Start Early

If you wait until the week before school starts to switch your kids’ sleep routines, their sleep-wake cycle won’t have time to adjust. Start transitioning two to four weeks before school starts instead.

3. Make Incremental Changes

Sending the kids to bed an hour earlier than they’re accustomed to is a recipe for a meltdown. Shift sleep and wake times gradually; 15 minutes at a time is a good place to start. After a few days when your children have adjusted, shift another 15 minutes. If you move bedtimes up 30 minutes each week, your kids will be going to bed and waking up two hours earlier at the end of a month — and they’ll hardly even notice.

4. Be Consistent

Once you’ve established bedtimes, stick with it, even on weekends. If your kids stay up late with friends, wake them at the normal time the next day. They’ll spend the day tired, but one day of grumpy kids is better than undoing all your hard work.

5. Set Rules Regarding Electronics

Using electronics after dark disrupts sleep, thanks to the melatonin-inhibiting blue light emitted from screens. Establish a time one to two hours before bed that electronics must be put down and don’t let kids take smartphones into their bedrooms. Instead of watching TV at night, encourage kids to read, play board games, listen to podcasts, or engage in other screen-free activities.

6. Create a Bedtime Routine

Depending on their age, kids should start getting ready for bed 15 to 30 minutes before bedtime. This not only ensures teeth are brushed and pajamas are on when bedtime hits, it also subconsciously signals to children that it’s time to relax and get sleepy.

7. Keep Bedrooms Cool, Dark, and Comfortable

It doesn’t matter how solid your bedtime routine is your kids’ bedrooms prevent a good night’s sleep. Keep children’s bedrooms dark and cool (60-67 degrees is best, according to Well+Good) and make their beds as comfortable as possible by replacing worn-out sheets, pillows and mattresses. It’s common for kids to sleep on the same mattress for years because parents don’t want to spend money to upgrade with college on the horizon. However, kids suffer just as much as adults from sagging, lumpy, or otherwise uncomfortable mattresses. If your child’s bed is becoming a pain, but budget is a concern, examine mattress reviews to find an affordable mattress that doesn’t skimp on comfort.

It’s no fun to be the bedtime enforcer when your kids are still in summer mode. But the reality is, committing to a bedtime routine benefits everyone, not just parents who want a couple hours of quiet before bed. When kids adjust to the school-year schedule before the first day, they head to school fully rested and ready to learn.

Image via Unsplash

Amanda Henderson is a mom to two wonderful, active boys and a preschool teacher. She enjoys writing in her free time, and recently decided to create Safechildren so that she would have a place to share her thoughts and favorite resources on parenting and child safety. Amanda is also a contributing writer for Jaden’s Voice.