Now that summer is almost over many struggle with how to get their kids back on a routine so that they will be ready for the big day. Here are some practical tips on ensuring they are well rested and back on track.
Cellphone free bedrooms
After a summer of chatting and texting, it may be hard to get your kids to cut back on their cellphone usage. Make sure phones are left in a particular spot before bedtime (e.g. kitchen, front door or parent’s bedroom) so that your child’s sleep is improved. A study of 1,656 schoolchildren between the ages of 13 and 16 revealed that 62 percent of them use their cellphones after they’ve gone to bed. The researchers followed the kids for a year and found that those who used their cellphones after bedtime less than once a week doubled the chance they would feel tired the next day.
Introduce earlier bedtimes
Work towards getting your pre-teen to bed by 8:30. That gives them 30 minutes to fall asleep and 10 hours to sleep by the time they have to get up at 7:00 a.m. If they need to get up earlier, they should go to bed earlier as well. For teens, aim for a 9:00 p.m. bedtime—which means no more late-night TV watching.
Also try to remember that your teen is not just being difficult when they say, “But, Mom, I’m not sleepy!” Starting at puberty, the body’s biological clock shifts by about two hours. So although your 13-year-old may be able to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. and fall asleep, your 15-year-old probably can’t fall asleep until 11:00 p.m. Patience is key.
Establish a better bedtime routine
Kids should always do three or four calming activities before bed and those activities should be the same every night. Bath, reading, prayer—whatever you choose, its daily repetition literally cues your child’s body that it’s time to sleep. One note: A National Sleep Foundation poll indicates that reading as a part of the bedtime routine is associated with kids falling asleep faster and sleeping better. And don’t forget your teen, adds Dr. Mindell. A routine is just as important for a 15-year-old as it is for a toddler.
Limit computer time
Cut back on the amount of time your family spends on the computer before bed—or just shut off your computer altogether. In our tech-obsessed culture, it can be very tempting to go online and check your mail or play a few games before bed. “But the computer is interactive, so you can’t just watch, you have to respond,” says the sleep specialist. “And that interaction is stimulating enough to keep you up half the night.”
Make bedrooms more sleep-friendly
A little aromatherapy—such as a quick spritz of soothing lavender water on your pillows—before bed will help calm and soothe your tired family. You can also try lowering the temperature of the bedrooms in your home before climbing into bed. Lower temperatures tell your body it’s time to sleep. If your children find their rooms too cold, try slightly warmer PJs or blankets to help keep them comfortable.
Get more exercise
Want to get your kids to bed at night without a struggle? Try a post-dinner walk, bike ride, or skate. On average it reduces the time it takes to get to sleep by 12 minutes, and it increases total sleep time by 42 minutes. Sneaking more activity into your family’s day is a great way to achieve better overall health and is a habit that can continue throughout the school year—just try to wrap up any exercise at least three hours before bed so that everyone has adequate time to wind down.
Make your home a stress-free zone
Heading back to school can be an overwhelming experience for some kids and the stress of changing routines can interfere with their ability to sleep. Talk to your child about any fears or anxiety they might have about heading back to school, and offer your comfort and reassurance. You can also try yoga or meditation as a family to soothe nervous energy and clear your mind before bed.