Many children and teenagers adopt a later sleep schedule over the summer, going to bed later and sleeping longer in the morning. A deliberate and gradual transition back to an earlier sleep schedule as the first day of school approaches can help kids start the school year well-rested and ready to perform. The Riley Sleep Disorders Center has created worksheets to help families with this transition, one for IPS students starting school on August 3rd and another that can be customized to any school start date.
Some tips for helping children with this transition:
- Start by figuring out how much sleep the child needs. While the worksheet presents guidelines for recommended sleep amounts, sometimes a better marker is how much a child sleeps when there are no schedule restrictions. In other words, if a child goes to bed at 11pm most nights over the summer and often sleeps until 8am the next morning, he or she likely needs around 9 hours of sleep.
- Once the sleep need has been determined, work backwards from the scheduled wake time to determine an optimal bedtime. Be sure to add 15-30 minutes, as it often takes this long to fall asleep. So, a child who has to wake at 6:30am and needs 9 hours of sleep would have a target bedtime of 9pm.
- Unless the child’s summer schedule is several hours later, usually a week is sufficient to make a transition.
- Start by having the child wake up 15-30 minutes earlier the first day, THEN move the bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier that night. This makes it less likely that kids will be asked to go to bed at a time when they are not yet tired, which can cause insomnia symptoms to develop.
- Have the child wake at the scheduled wake-up time even if he/she was not able to fall asleep at the scheduled bedtime. As long as the child wakes on time and does not nap during the day, he or she will often be able to fall asleep at the earlier bedtime after a day or so.
Contributor: Sarah Morsbach Honaker PhD, HSPP, CBSM Riley Sleep Disorders Center