Learn why sleep is so important for school success, and what you can do to get your kids’ sleeping habits back on track for the school season.
As summer winds down, chances are you’re thinking ahead to a new school year: checking bus schedules, filling backpacks with pencils and notebooks, and collecting school lunch ideas.
You might also wonder if you need to adjust your kids’ sleep routine. The long, lazy days of summer can push bedtimes and wake-up times later… the opposite of a school day schedule!
Your instincts to pay attention to your kids’ sleep routine are spot on. Sleep is crucial to kids’ ability to listen, learn, grow, and socialize at school.
Read on to learn why sleep has such a big impact on school success, and what you can do to help kids have a healthy and consistent bedtime routine.
Healthy Sleep is Essential for School Success
Kids need sleep so they can learn well at school.
Getting an adequate amount of REM sleep is important for solidifying the learning experiences of the previous day. Memory consolidation also happens during sleep which means it’s harder to file away new knowledge with too little shut-eye. Kids who are sleep deprived are more likely to be inattentive and forgetful at school.
Kids need sleep so they can regulate their behavior at school.
MRI studies have shown that when people are sleep deprived, they demonstrate emotionally reactive behavior. Social situations at school require children to respond in a controlled, appropriate manner. Kids who aren’t getting enough sleep are more likely to struggle with challenging social situations than their well-rested peers.
Kids need sleep so their immune systems are equipped to handle new germs.
Let’s face it. School isn’t just a magical place of learning and growth. It’s also a hot bed of viruses and bacteria! Adequate sleep lets kids’ bodies release certain proteins called cytokines, which help their immune systems fight illness, infection, and stress. Conversely, inadequate sleep increases the chances kids will fall victim to the bugs and germs they encounter at school.
Top 6 Strategies for Improving Kids’ Sleep Habits
There’s a lot you can do to ensure you send your little one off to school well rested and prepared to succeed this year. Follow these tips to improve your family’s sleep habits:
- Talk about the importance of sleep in a family meeting. Back-to-school time is a great time to create new healthy routines around sleep. And getting your kids on board matters! 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.
- Establish 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. Stick to an earlier bedtime to make sure your kids are logging enough hours.
- To get there, start shifting bedtime 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. Kids can be anxious and excited about starting school. So shifting the sleep schedule ahead of time helps avoid a late night before the first day of school.
- Keep a consistent routine in the hour before bedtime. Find a gentle sequence of events that helps everyone in your family feel ready for lights-out time. This might be a bath, a story, and a snuggle. For some kids it might include some quiet playtime, coloring, or a simple snack. Avoid screens and high-energy playtime near bed.
- Pay attention to your kids’ “natural alarm clock.” How is she doing in the morning? A sure sign your child is well rested is that she’ll 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 extra early bedtime during the first few weeks of school. 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.
More Sleep Strategies for Well-Rested Kids
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie