It’s time to get back on the grind—the sleep schedule included.
It’s that time of the year. We’re happy to get back into routine after a long Yom Tov season. And that means re-focusing our attention on one important aspect that could gear our children up for a successful winter season: it’s sleep.
Over Yom Tov, kids might sleep in later (girls especially), toddlers might skip naps, and everyone goes to bed later. In general, schedules are a lot more relaxed.. As a result, getting back into routine is difficult. But if you want your child to head into the crux of the school year on a high and ready to kickstart their learning, they need to be in the best shape physically and mentally—and that requires sleep!
So, I’m giving you some of my best tips for helping your kids transition back into a school sleep schedule.
Figure out how much sleep your child needs for their age
Your child’s age will be the biggest factor in how much sleep they need. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that pre-schoolers ages 3 to 5 years need between 10 and 13 hours of sleep in 24 hours, including any naps. School-aged children ages 6 to 13 need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep in 24 hours. Keep in mind that even these recommendations will vary between kids. For some kids, an hour more or less of sleep may be suitable.
Determine how much time your child needs to get ready for school
Once you’ve figured out how many hours of sleep your child needs, it’s time to figure out how much time they need to get ready for school! That includes waking up, getting ready (dressed, fed, packed), and out the door to school. This may be quick for younger children, while older kids may need more time. Once you figure out how long they need, you can work backward to find the appropriate bedtime.
For example, if your child needs to be at school by 8:30 AM and: Requires 10 hours of sleep + 1 hour to get up, get ready, and get out of the door, a good wake-up time for your child is 7:30 AM, and a reasonable bedtime would be around 8:30 PM.
Make adjustments to their schedule in advance
Adjusting a child’s schedule is never easy and never happens overnight. You want to give yourself enough time to get their schedule back on track and let them adjust—while going cold turkey works for some things, it’s not the best solution for sleep schedule adjustments.
Here’s what you want to do: Move your child’s bedtime forward by 15-30 minutes every three days until you’re back to the perfect bedtime. For example, if your child has been going to bed at 9:30 PM for the past few weeks, here’s how your days will look:
- Days 1-3: 9:15 PM bedtime
- Days 4-6: 9:00 PM bedtime
- Days 7-9: 8:45 PM bedtime
- Days 10-12: 8:30 PM bedtime
See what I mean? These changes need to be gradual and won’t happen overnight, so grace yourself with enough time to help your child adjust so there are minimal issues. Moving around a child’s schedule is never easy, so practice your patience and consistency!
More Tips: Know your child’s tired cues
For the first week or two of school, you may need to move your child’s bedtime forward slightly to accommodate for a more tired-than-usual child—and learn to recognize the signs of a tired child: There are plenty of signs that your child is tired, so keep your eyes peeled!
- Irritable or has a short fuse
- Poor listening
- Eye rubbing
More Tips: Follow a bedtime routine
While you may not have followed your kids’ bedtime routine to a tee (or even nightly) in the past few weeks, it’s time to get back to it—and if you don’t have one, it’s time to get one! The bedtime routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a bath or shower, brushing teeth, going to the toilet, putting on PJs, reading one or two books, and a kiss goodnight. Keep it under 30 minutes to avoid having your child get overtired and frustrated, which will prevent sleep. See this post for more details on creating a perfect bedtime routine.
More Tips: Don’t make plans
With a busy Yom Tov come and gone, your kids are probably exhausted! And while it can be tempting to throw get-togethers and playdates with all their friends—give them time to have structure, breathe, and catch up on sleep.
More Tips: Set them up for sleep success (sleep environment – throw to previous sleep post)
Before we can really work on getting your child to sleep well, we must ensure their sleep environment is conducive to good sleep! If you haven’t read my post on setting up the ideal sleep cave, you can check that out (even though it’s geared towards babies, it’s still the same principles), but here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll want their room to look like:
- Dark: I’m talking about pitch black I-can’t-see-my-hand kind of dark. If you can see your hand six inches in front of your face, it’s too light. If your child’s room has large windows, invest in Blackout EZ blinds or blackout curtains.
- Sound: Sound machines are great for children of all ages—and the Dohm is my favorite. It helps to mask any outside noises that could interfere with your child’s sleep. Plus, the noises on the sound machine can be soothing and comforting for some kids.
- Temperature: The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 68 and 72 Fahrenheit—for all ages. If your child’s room is too hot or too cold, it will interfere with their sleep. Open the windows, turn on a fan, or turn the thermostat down to cool the room. Also, ensure they’re sleeping in loose, cool clothing that is breathable.
- Comfort item: If your child has a security blanket or favorite stuffed toy, make sure they have it at bedtime! They’re perfect for helping your child self-soothe, but make sure they only have a maximum of two comfort items to avoid overcrowding their bed.
- Alarm clock: The Hatch is awesome for teaching your children when it’s time to get in and out of bed. Because the colors are easily customizable (from your smartphone), you can set different colors to different meanings. For example, when the light is green, you can get out of bed; it’s time for bedtime when the light is red. Let your child have a say in what color means what!
Getting your child back on the proper sleep schedule is never easy, but when you’re armed with a plan of attack and have access to proper guidance, it doesn’t have to be a battle!