As summer comes to a close and we prepare our children to head back to school we’ll load their backpacks with crayons, pencils and notebooks. As you get your little one prepared for the upcoming school year, don’t forget about one back to school necessity that is often overlooked: Healthy sleep is essential for back to school success.
Children need sleep in order to learn at school. It’s during the REM component of the sleep cycle that little minds solidify the learning of the previous day. Memory consolidation also happens during sleep which means it’s much more difficult to file away new knowledge without a good night’s sleep. On top of all that, children who are sleep deprived are more likely to be inattentive and forgetful at school.
Children need sleep in order to behave appropriately at school. MRI studies have shown that when people are sleep deprived they demonstrate emotionally reactive behaviour. Social situations at school require children to respond in a controlled, appropriate manner. Children who are not getting enough sleep are more likely to have difficulty dealing with challenging social situations than their well-rested peers.
How can you ensure you send your little one off to school well rested and prepared to succeed this year? Follow these tips for sleep and school success:
- Discuss the importance of sleep for school success in a family meeting. Getting into the routine of going back to school provides a great opportunity to get into the routine of healthy sleep. Discuss your family’s sleep rules, set up a bedtime routine, and talk about the importance of healthy sleep for all the members of the family.
- Set a regular bedtime in the 7pm-8pm range. Each child has different sleep needs, but generally most school aged children need between 10-12 hours of night time sleep.
- If your family has adopted a summer schedule of a late bedtime and a leisurely morning, being shifting it a week or two before the first day back to school. Adjust bedtime earlier by 15 minutes a night, every few days, until you reach the range of 7pm-8pm. It’s common for some anxiety to accompany back to school excitement. By shifting the sleep schedule ahead of time your child will avoid a late night before the first day of school, which will make that first day a little bit easier.
- Strive for a natural alarm clock. A sure sign your child is well rested is that she will wake up, in good spirits, around the same time each day. Dragging your child out of bed each morning is a good indication that your little one needs more sleep.
- Don’t be afraid to try an early bedtime. If you have a child heading to kindergarten or preschool for the first time an early bedtime might be in order. Starting at a new school or daycare can be very draining for little bodies. Offer an earlier than usual bedtime as your child’s body makes the adjustment to these new demands.
Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.