If preparation is the key to success, kids who gradually transition from their summer sleep schedule may be setting themselves up for a string of good report cards.
Late bedtimes and lazy days are part of summer’s charm, but having either come to a screeching halt the night before the first day of school may be the recipe for a sleepy first day.
Gradually implementing schedule changes ahead of time may help kids and adolescents start school off on the right foot, says Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., director of Baylor University’s Sleep Neuroscience and Cognition Laboratory and assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences.
In light of the fact that research shows a link between varied schedules and decreased quality of cognition, Scullin suggests parents begin making children’s sleep schedules more school-friendly ahead of time.
Making the shift
What can parents do to help kids get a better night's sleep? Scullin says it’s all about creating the right atmosphere.
- Start the transition early. Burning the midnight oil may be okay during summer vacation, but continuing to stay up late during the nights leading up to the first day of school may not be ideal. To help ensure kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on their first day of school, parents should start imposing schedule changes a few days early.
- Keep bedrooms dark. There's a time and a place for kids’ phones, tablets, and laptops, but the bedroom isn’t one of them. In addition to not allowing kids to crawl into bed with their devices, Scullin recommends investing in blackout curtains to keep bright lights outside from disturbing kids’ slumber.
- Keep rooms quiet. Street noise, a snoring sibling, or even a particularly loud flock of birds may get in the way of an uninterrupted night’s sleep. To keep out external noise, parents may want to purchase earplugs for their kids.
- Banish pets. They may be adorable partners in crime during the day, but at night, kids and pets should be separated. Whether they’re bed hogs or noisy dreamers, pets that sleep in a child’s bed may be to blame for disturbing kids’ rest. Scullin suggests setting pets up with a bed of their own and allowing kids to sleep solo.
- Cut caffeine and reduce late night snacking. Parents of Starbucks-addicted teens may want to consider putting an end to caffeine consumption by late afternoon. Additionally, parents should avoid letting kids eat a heavy meal late in the day. Close to bedtime, Scullin recommends opting for foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fats.
- Sort out anxiety through writing. Kicking off a new school year may be exciting for some but a nightmare for others. If your child is grappling with school-related anxiety, consider having them keep a journal. Listing out worries is a great way to help kids work through their fears -- and a mind at peace is a mind that will be able to fall asleep easily and sleep soundly.