10 Tips to Get Your Kids Back on a School Sleep Schedule - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on August 15, 2016

Back to School Means Back to Sleep

Late summer nights will soon have to be a thing of the past as the new school year approaches. Successful students of all ages need to have energy, the ability to concentrate, retain information, and be creative problem solvers. If your child is having trouble in school, look to their sleep schedule to make sure it is not the source of the problem.

Lack of sleep can result in not only learning difficulties but behavioral problems as well.

“Good quality and sufficient sleep is necessary for everyone but is especially critical for children. Just like a healthy diet and exercise, children need adequate sleep to stay healthy, grow, learn, and function at their best,” says Dr. Margaret Hennessy, a pediatrician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group.

10 Tips to Help Kids Return to a School-Year Sleep Schedule

Check out Dr. Hennessy’s 10 tips to get your child on the right track before the school year begins:

  1. Set a sleep schedule gradually: Start the school year sleep schedule a week or more ahead of the first day of school in order to get your kids used to the change in sleep time. For example, if your child usually sleeps in until 10 am then wake up at 9 am for several days. Then try 8 am for several days. Try not to nap but go bed earlier as you shift the sleep schedule.
  2. Be consistent: Once kids are back to their school year sleep schedule, try to stay within one to two hours of your usual wake time even on the weekends.
  3. Get early morning sun: Exposure in the morning helps reset the internal clock and signals to the brain that it’s time to be awake.
  4. Get outdoors: Having kids get fresh air and take in natural light regulates the body’s internal “sleep clock” keeping them alert during the day and tired at night. Exercise will also help with healthy sleeping habits.
  5. Time shift for late nights: It’s important for kids to get eight to 11 hours of sleep a night, depending on their age. Some older teens who are having trouble transitioning to an earlier schedule may want to try an unconventional solution and shift their bedtime forward. For example, if your teen goes to bed at 4 am and sleeps until noon, then you may want to try to move bedtime to 6 am and sleep until 2 pm for a few days. Then go to bed at 8 am and wake up at 4 pm and so on to get to a regular sleep routine.
  6. Limit caffeine: Caffeine is not recommended for children in general, however, it is in many drinks such as soda, tea, and coffee. If your child drinks something with caffeine then try to limit it to morning only. Caffeinated drinks can actually interfere with sleep up to 12 hours after drinking them.
  7. Limit electronics: Technology can increase the electrical activity in a child’s brain which is the exact opposite of what should happen before going to sleep. Turn off the computer or the video games a few hours before bedtime.
  8. Keep cell phones out of the bedroom: Having cell phones in the bedroom makes it hard for kids to stay away from the devices and the “glow” from the electronics can also delay the release of melatonin.
  9. No prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sleep medicine: There are no approved sleep medications for children. Also, OTC sleep medicines can actually cause agitation in children instead of sleepiness.
  10. Talk to a primary care provider about melatonin: Melatonin is a hormone that your body uses to know when it is time to sleep. Some children can benefit from taking a melatonin supplement. However, melatonin is not for everyone and can interact with other supplements or medications. Make sure to check with your physician before you use it.

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10 Tips to Get Your Kids Back on a School Sleep Schedule