Getting back-to-school sleep schedules

We’re still in the swing of summer with long days and late nights, but now is a good time to start thinking about back to school. Studies have shown a correlation between hours of sleep and students’ ability to focus in school. Pediatrician Susanna Block from Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center says that the best way to get your children on a school sleep schedule is to start gradually and create a routine.

“Successfully getting back on a school sleep schedule means resetting kids’ expectations for bedtime,” said Dr. Block. “Set a firm bedtime and reestablish that bedtime routine.”

School sleep schedule

Children 7 to 12 years old need ten to eleven hours of sleep. Preteens and teens need eight to nine hours.

  • Adjust bedtime by moving it up just 15 minutes a night. Start a week or two before school starts.
  • Create restful bedtime routines. This could include a consistent routine of reading time, a bath, or other calming activities before bed.
  • Use blackout curtains and turn off lights to simulate night even when it’s still light out.
  • Keep technology and screens out of the bedroom.

Keeping the routine

“Our bodies can associate sleep with our bedtime routine,” said Dr. Block. “Whether it’s calming music or reading together or dimming the lights, having the same routine every night—even on weekends—cues our bodies to get ready to sleep.”

Seattle’s sunshine late into the summer evenings can make moving up bedtime difficult. Dr. Block recommends sending your child to bed at bedtime regardless and helping them relax, whether or not they fall asleep at the earlier time.

“By encouraging your child to calm their bodies and minds earlier, you help them relax into sleep,” said Dr. Block. “They may not fall to sleep earlier the first night you move up bedtime for fall but by week two they should be adapting to the earlier bedtime.”

Contact your primary care provider

Parents with ongoing sleep struggles should talk with their health care provider for support.


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