As the summer is ending, we leave behind lazy mornings, melting away from our hands like a dripping ice cream cone. Parents are getting ready to send their kids back to school. It’s a time of mixed emotions for some and for others, a time of relief.
Parents everywhere are gathering important school supplies for a presumably stress-free and successful year. Some are busy getting new clothes, shoes, lunch boxes, and backpacks, while others are scrambling to get well-child check-ups and dental visits.
Amidst all this is a missing critical ingredient in the recipe for success during the upcoming year. Children need proper sleep to function while at school.
Sleep and Learning
There are multiple studies that show that sleep helps children concentrate and retain information better, and aids in their decision-making, planning, and critical thinking.
Transitions are difficult. Going from staying up late and sleeping in during the summer to waking up early and doing homework isn’t an easy shift. However, it’s never too late to begin this switch, so long as it starts early enough.
Here are some tips to help your child ease into his or her school sleep schedule and maintain healthy sleep habits throughout the year:
• Know the normal amount of sleep for your child’s age.
• Work on the schedule: about two weeks before school starts, work with your child to return to a school appropriate sleep schedule based on when the bus comes. Each morning, set an earlier wake-up time in 15-minute intervals and every night, set an earlier bedtime in 15-minute increments until the desired sleep times are achieved. Once established, stick to the schedule, even on weekends.
• Open the blinds for natural early morning light exposure to help set the schedule.
• Brush, Book, Bed: start a “quiet time” every evening to help your child to unwind.
• Provide a peaceful bedroom environment: dark room, inviting bed, and a comfortable room temperature.
• “Power down” electronics to recharge them and recharge the kids. Limit electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. Electronic media should be removed from your child’s room and put elsewhere.
• Avoid and limit caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. Caffeine can interrupt your child’s natural sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep. Do not forget those bedtime chocolate milks- chocolate has caffeine, too.
• Be a role model for your child. Establish your own regular sleep cycle and maintain a home that promotes healthy sleep.
It doesn’t have to be torture to get on a normal sleep schedule. A fully rested child will enjoy the day and be their best selves for the best year possible.
Recognize when things are a bit out of control. If you need an extra hand, remember UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is here for you. Please contact your primary care physician to check for a referral to our Pediatric Sleep Medicine Program. Our team comprises of wonderful nurses and support staff, sleep technicians, sleep physicians such as Drs. Muzumdar and Burman, and our behavioral sleep psychologists, such as Drs. Hannah Ford and Ryan Anderson. Everyone can work with you on a one-on-one basis to help you transition to an appropriate sleep schedule seamlessly. For more information, please visit www.chp.edu/our-services/pulmonology/services/sleep.
Until then, there are always good movies and other great outdoor activities for kids in Pittsburgh to wrap up the summer!