As kids prepare to transition from the laidback days of summer to the demands of the school year, it’s important to plan ahead to establish a healthy sleep schedule. Getting adequate rest is vital to children’s academic success and overall well-being.
Research reveals that well-rested children perform better in school, exhibiting improved attention, memory, and problem-solving abilities. These are essential for effective learning in the classroom.
Additionally, experts say a good night’s sleep can enhance creativity and critical-thinking skills. This allows children to approach academic challenges with a fresh and focused mindset.
“To help your child thrive academically, it’s crucial to prioritize their sleep and establish healthy sleep habits,” says Dr. Sneha Subbarayan, a Pediatrician at ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah and -Appleton.
Sleep Recommendations by Age
When it comes to how much sleep is the best for your child, it depends on their age. The National Sleep Foundation has set these sleep guidelines for kids:
- Preschoolers (ages 3-5): 10-13 hours
- School-age children (ages 6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (ages 14-17): 8-10 hours
Adjusting Sleep-Wake Schedules
To ensure your child gets sufficient sleep, experts say establishing a sleep schedule is essential. Aim for a set bedtime and wakeup time that allows for the recommended amount of sleep for your child’s age group.
Start by gradually adjusting your child’s sleep schedule to align with the school routine. Begin one to two weeks before school begins, shifting bedtime and wakeup times earlier each day to ease the transition. This allows your child’s body to adapt to the new sleep schedule without abrupt disruptions.
You can help regulate your child’s internal body clock with a consistent schedule. This makes it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up refreshed.
Establishing a Healthy Sleep Space
It’s important to tailor your child’s sleep environment for optimal rest. Consider these guidelines:
- Provide a comfortable space: A cozy space promotes relaxation and quality sleep. Ensure that your child’s mattress, pillow, and bedding are comfortable and age-appropriate. In addition, make sure your child’s room is cool enough, as an overly warm space can disrupt sleep.
- Limit distractions: Keep the bedroom environment quiet and dark. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smartphones. These can interfere with sleep quality.
- Dim lighting: Use blackout curtains or blinds to create a darkened space that promotes better sleep. Nightlights can provide a comforting glow, if needed.
- Reduce noise: Kids can minimize external sounds by using earplugs, or you can set up soothing white noise or music.
Encouraging Positive Sleep Habits
Finally, creating healthy sleep habits can further enhance your child’s sleep quality.
- Stick to a bedtime routine: Help your child wind down before bed by establishing a relaxing routine. Encourage activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, practicing deep breathing exercises, or listening to calming music. A consistent routine helps signal children’s bodies that it’s time to unwind.
- Unplug: In the hour before bedtime, have your child stop using electronic devices, including TVs, computers, video games, and smartphones.
- Limit caffeine: Restrict the intake of caffeinated beverages, particularly in the afternoon and evening, as they can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Physical activity: Encourage regular physical activity during the day. This promotes better sleep quality. But make sure your child completes their exercise at least two hours before bedtime to allow their body to wind down.
By prioritizing your child’s sleep, you can promote a successful school year ahead, Dr. Subbarayan says. “A comfortable and distraction-free space, coupled with a relaxing bedtime routine, sets the stage for a good night’s rest and optimal academic performance,” she says. “By recognizing the importance of sleep in your child’s life, you’re investing in their overall well-being and academic success.”