Setting a back-to-school bedtime routine

Establishing a back-to-school bedtime routine is important. Kids who don’t get enough sleep have an increased risk of physical and mental health issues.

Shopping for school supplies, completing back-to-school checkups and meeting new teachers are all part of the back-to-school excitement. But for many families, one of the biggest challenges is getting back into a regular bedtime routine. Summer break often means more relaxed bedtime and wake-up schedules.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s guidelines for the recommended amounts of sleep by age are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“In order to feel rested and ready for the school day, children between the ages of 6 to 12 need between nine and 12 hours of sleep each night; and teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep,” said Jameel T. Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Parents should make sure their child goes to bed with enough time to get those recommended hours of sleep.”

Lack of sleep in children can lead to poor academic performance and behavioral issues in school. Kids who don’t get enough sleep also have an increased risk of health issues, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression. Sleep deprivation makes a child more prone to injuries and accidents.

Create your child’s bedtime routine together

If you’re wondering how to get your child on a sleep schedule, it helps to know this: Kids respond better when they can see simple instructions, and they are more likely to follow instructions when they play an active role in creating the rules.

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For younger children, creating a visual bedtime schedule can help get their nighttime routine back on track. Visual schedules come in many varieties and are a proven positive parenting technique. The idea is to engage kids in identifying and completing the activities that lead up to bedtime.

Work together with your child to decide on key bedtime activities, such as putting away toys, taking a bath, brushing teeth and reading a book. Take photos of your child completing these steps (or print photos from the internet). Together with your child, decide on the order in which these images should be arranged. Use poster board, markers and stickers to decorate the step-by-step routine.

When your visual schedule is ready, place it in a common area and encourage your child to refer to it as they complete each step leading to bedtime. If one activity takes too long, it may be appropriate to skip a step in order to make it to bed on time.

As part of their bedtime routine, your child should avoid electronics at least one hour before going to sleep.

Older kids’ bedtime routines

Older kids and teens also need support to make sure they are back into a bedtime routine. Have a family talk to decide on a bedtime that includes eight to nine hours of sleep. Discuss ways to limit use of electronics, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime. Avoid strenuous exercise and eating big meals in the hours before bed. On the weekends, keep a relatively consistent bedtime schedule. Even if your child stays up later, be sure they are waking up within a couple of hours of their normal wake-up time.