The back-to-school ads are filling the airwaves even though summer isn't quite over yet. Getting a jump on school supplies is not the only preparation you need to do to get your kids ready for school. According to Chief of Pediatric Hospital Medicine Daniel Rauch, MD, "one of the hardest transitions for children and parents about the start of school is simply waking up. Switching from a lazy summer schedule of late nights and sleeping in to early morning alarms is a necessary adjustment that doesn’t happen overnight!"
Dr. Rauch offers these tips:
- Adjust the body clock. Waking up earlier, rested and ready to go, is not that different from adjusting to a different time zone. You can try to move someone’s clock ahead about 30-60 minutes per day. So if your kids are waking up at 10 am now and need to be up at 6 am for the school year, you will need at least a week to slowly move their wake-up time. This should be matched with an earlier bedtime.
- Practice sleep hygiene. You can take this opportunity of changing their bedtime to also reinforce good bedtime habits. There should be a bedtime routine that progresses to sleep. Many parents do this for preschool children, but it helps for older kids unwind from a busy day.
- Turn off the devices. All our screens keep us awake, not only from what we are watching or reading, but also from the wavelength of light that stimulates our brains and keeps us awake. Some newer devices adjust the light to be less stimulating at night, but the best advice is to turn it off.
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. The other key point in changing the clock is that the new sleep schedule should be every day and not just weekdays. If kids are allowed to stay up late and sleep in on weekends it sets back the progress. This is true during the school year too and is a big problem for teenagers who then can’t get going on Monday (and sometimes Tuesday and Wednesday).
- Enjoy the end of summer! Earlier bedtime and wake times doesn’t have to mean the end of fun. Go out for breakfast or hit the beach early before the crowds.