Back-To-School: How To Get Your Kid’s Sleep Schedule Back On Track

In Canada, we are officially one month away from a new school year. 

Back-to-school is both exciting and stressful at any time. But, during a pandemic, it’s even more significant. Are you sending your little one(s) back for in-person learning? Are you keeping them home for online learning? Homeschooling? 

No matter what your choice is, back-to-school means back to routine. 

Especially for kiddos who need to be at school at a certain time, getting to bed early enough that they get enough sleep is critical. 

So how do you get your kids sleeping like students again?

Two things: 1 – figure out when they need to go to bed; 2 – start moving toward that time now. 

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1 – What time does your child need to go to bed?

The way to approach this is to first figure out what time your son or daughter will need to get up in the morning for school. Then work backwards. 

Preschoolers and kindergarteners need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Elementary-aged kids who are six to 13-years-old need between 9 and 11 hours a night. 

Based on this, if you have a five-year-old who needs to be up at 7 am for school, a bedtime of 7 pm or 8 pm is ideal. If you have a 10-year old who has to be up at 6 am, the same bedtime would work perfectly. 

You’ll know your bedtime is working for you if your child is waking up happy and rested in the morning. If you have to wake your little one up to get them out of bed, they’re not getting enough sleep. 

And you don’t have to take my word for it! Dr. Craig Canapari, Director of the Yale Pediatric Sleep Centre (and pretty funny guy, if you decide to follow him on social media) posted an article last month giving the same advice. He also talks about teenagers if you have kids that age. 

2 – When and how do you get your kids onto their school schedule?

The short answer is to start now. 

Kids who have been going to bed later and sleeping in later while at home will need about a month to adjust to an earlier schedule. This gives you lots of time to slowly shift them to an earlier bedtime and get them used to having a more structured bedtime routine again. 

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I know the thought of moving to a new schedule already, when we’re still in the thick of summer, might not sound like fun. I feel you on that. I’m not excited about having to set my morning alarm again in a month’s time. But it’s also important to make sure our kids are getting enough rest before all of the demands of being at school again. 

A chronic lack of sleep can make it difficult for little ones during the day. Insufficient sleep can lead to issues with cognitive functioning (including attention, learning, creative thinking, and memory)1. And, especially important during a pandemic, according to the Mayo Clinic, a lack of sleep can affect your immune system2.

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So, as you enjoy the rest of your summer as much as you can, slowly begin moving back to your school-year schedule. And know that whatever happens come September 8 (or whenever your kids are starting school), home or at school, masked or not, at least your little ones will be rested. 

1 Price, Anna M.H., Wake, Melissa, Okoumunne, Obioha C., and Hiscock, Harriet. It’s O.K. to Let Babies Cry It Out at Bedtime. Pediatrics October 2012;130:4

2 Olson, Eric J., M.D. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? November 28, 2018. Retrieved from mayoclinic.org.

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Rachel Ross

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