Get your kids’ sleep schedule back on track for back to school

With school starting soon, you might consider using these last couple of weeks to reestablish routines and earlier bedtimes.

Read this full blog post at UNC Health Care's blog.


This post was written by Karen Wysocki, MA, MEd, a Healthy Steps child development specialist at N.C. Children’s Hospital.

Alarm clocks will soon be buzzing across the state to wake up children and adolescents for schools on a traditional schedule. You and your family may be tempted to get the most out of the remaining weeks of summer vacation by staying up late and sleeping late in the morning. But with school starting soon, you might consider using these last couple of weeks to reestablish routines and earlier bedtimes.

Children ages 5 – 10 years function best when they get 10 – 11 hours of sleep each night. Preteens and teens need 8 – 9 ½ hours each night. Research shows that adequate sleep results in improved mood, better behavior and increased ability to pay attention. Who wouldn’t want their kids acting, learning and feeling better? (Hey, maybe we adults should be getting our recommended 7 – 9 hours too!)

Getting kids to bed earlier works best if the change is made gradually. Start by making bedtime 15 minutes earlier for a few days; then make it 30 minutes earlier for several days. Keep adding another 15 minutes to the bedtime schedule until your children are getting the recommended amount of sleep and are able to wake up in plenty of time to get ready for school. Don’t forget that getting ready for school should include eating a healthy breakfast. Good sleep and a good breakfast is a great start towards a good day.

Bedtime routines aren’t just for toddlers. All children, teens and adults can benefit from doing the same things every night before going to sleep. These activities should be quiet and relaxing. Reading, taking a bath and listening to soothing music are some examples. Make sure the bedroom is dark, cool and quiet. Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom and avoid caffeine several hours before bed.

Also, for children and teens, trying to keep the same sleep times and routines on both weekdays and weekends can lead to better sleep. Can you do this all the time? Probably not, but it may be worth trying most of the time.

Follow these tips and your children can begin the start of school excited about learning and well rested.