A local child sleep expert offers some helpful tips for getting families onto a healthy sleep program in time for returning to school.
Back to school is almost here! It might sound shocking or unreal, especially after learning how to home school, but it’s time to get back in the groove of things and to a normal life. Back to school is one of parents’ busy times of year. Parents can easily get overwhelmed by all the back-to-school preparing and shopping, and usually an important part of preparing for back to school is missed — and that is children getting enough sleep!
All over the news and social media platforms there are tips and advice on how to prepare for a smooth back-to-school transition. But transitioning from the flexibility of a summer schedule to early morning wake-ups can be quite challenging.
By now you might be wondering why sleep is so important and why you should be concerned about it. Here is why: Sleep deprivation can negatively affect our children — in ways including mood instability, higher anxiety, lower attention span, more hyperactivity and poor immunity. Getting enough sleep and rested bodies help reduce all these symptoms significantly. A 2013 study found increased performance in math and language skills when a child has gotten enough sleep. Following are some tips to help you and your children get started on the right sleep track:
Set up a fixed bedtime and wake time for your kids. This helps their circadian rhythms adjust, allowing their bodies to have sleep cues, which results in falling asleep quicker as well as getting a consolidated good night’s sleep.
Set up a calming routine an hour before bedtime to help get their bodies relaxed and ready for bedtime. Some examples of such routines are taking a warm bath, reading books and drawing.
Foods We Eat
Consider the foods we provide to our children especially two to three hours prior to bedtime. Some foods contain caffeine and if eaten close to bedtime can make it difficult for children to fall asleep and/or result in low quality sleep. Some other foods to consider are those that can be hard on the stomach and digestion, including spicy foods and those high in sugar. Conversely, some foods that help the body stay calm and release melatonin, the sleep hormone, are oatmeal, bananas and warm milk.
Making the changes can be challenging at first, especially after an unpredictable year, but these tips may help you achieve better sleep for your children as well as yourself. The key is to start with a little pre-planning and to start it early. What we do not want to happen is to have a fun-filled summer and then start with a new routine and schedule the night before school starts. The recommendation is to start two weeks prior to school starting to give your child(ren) ample time to readjust, starting the school year on the right foot to achieve academic success.
If you feel like you are not doing so well in these areas, do not feel disappointed. One-quarter of parents who were surveyed, believed that their children get an hour less sleep during school nights, so you are not alone. But it is never too late to start healthy habits. Start implementing them tonight and soon you may see all the benefits of your child getting a good night’s sleep reflected in their academic performance.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Emily Forotan is the founder of EZ Parenthood, a certified baby and toddler sleep coach and an Orange County mom. Visit www.ezparenthood.com or @ezparenthood for more information.