Wellness for the Family: Back To School Schedules
The start of a new school year can be a difficult transition for both parents and children. One of the most challenging matters is adjusting sleep schedules, however, proper rest in young children promotes healthy growth, increased focus and improved work ethic. On average, kids require 10 hours of sleep each night. Knowing this may not be the case throughout summer, parents and guardians can help make the transition into a new school year smooth by following a few simple steps.
Dr. Kristyn Gregory, DO, medical director for behavioral health at Blue Care Network of Michigan has some tips.
1.Know the Numbers
The amount of sleep children require varies by age. Those between the ages of three and five need 10 to 13 hours of sleep per night, kids ages 6 to 13 generally require 9 to 11 hours of sleep and teenagers ages 14 to 17 need eight to 10 hours. The right amount of rest directly correlates with our ability to focus, concentrate, retain information and effectively problem solve.
2.Get a Head Start
It’s important to start reinforcing a schedule at least two to three weeks before school starts. Depending on the age of your child and how much sleep they need, set a bedtime based on the appropriate amount, keeping in mind the time it will take them to get ready to leave in the morning. It’s easiest to make this transition gradually, by having children go to bed 15 to 20 minutes earlier every three to four days until the desired bedtime is reached.
3.Establish a Routine
Set expectations for nighttime routines that will make mornings smoother such as showering before bed, picking out outfits or making sure backpacks and lunches are packed and ready to go. Getting things out of the way before bed allows for more sleep in the morning and less anxiety. Try to also allow for “quiet time” in the evenings that will help children unwind and relax before heading to bed.
4.Cut the Caffeine
Drinking caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can impede on a child’s quality of sleep. It is also a catalyst to middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks and potential accidents. It is best to limit all fluid intake an hour before bed and approximately six hours prior to bedtime for caffeinated beverages.
5.Limit Screen Time
Many kids have access to electronics that allow them to play games, text friends or scan social media pages late into the night. Technology increases the electrical activity in our brains during use, which is the opposite of what should be happening at a time of impending sleep. The “glow” of these devices has also been shown to delay the release of melatonin, which signals our brains that it’s time to sleep. Have kids unplug at least an hour before bedtime to help their brains wind down and prepare for a good night’s rest.
While it may be difficult at first to stick to a new school schedule, it is beneficial to a child’s mental and physical well-being. Getting the kids acclimated with a new schedule early on ensures a happy, healthy start to the new school year.