Back to School Sleep Routines for Children


back to school sleepIt’s that time of year again! How did summer break fly by already? We all know what this means; our little ones have to adjust from lazy summer days to busy school days and after school activities. Most of us let our kiddos schedules slip during the summer months and let them sleep in and stay up a little too late. Now it is time to buckle up and get them back on a healthy, happy, daily sleep routine again.

Studies have shown that a lack of quality sleep in children can increase the likelihood of anxiety, depression, poor grades, and school performance. Of course, as parents, we don’t want any of this for our little ones. We want them to be happy, well-rounded kids who are doing their best in school. Research has proven that kids need a fair amount of sleep to function adequately during the day, and sleep-deprived children often overcompensate for lack of sleep by becoming fidgety or even disruptive in school.

So, how many hours should my child be sleeping every night? Here is a quick breakdown by age what how many hours a night your child should be getting of restorative sleep:

  • Ages 5 and up need the most sleep, requiring about 10-11 hours every night.

  • Ages 9-12 need between 9.5-10 hours nightly. 

  • Ages 13-18 need between 8.5-9.5 hours nightly.

Knowing how many hours of sleep your child requires to be well-rested for the next day is vital to know when they should be going to bed every night. Just remember that every child is different and has their own sleep needs. It may take you a week or so to fine-tune their bedtimes until you find your child is waking happy and refreshed each morning.

Here are some simple steps to help guide your child to a healthy daily sleep routine.

Moving Bedtime: Begin getting your children back into the routine of going to bed earlier by 15 minutes each night until you are at the desired bedtime. In doing this, it is a gradual transition and allows your child’s body clock to adjust slowly, making the first day of school an even more smooth transition into the new school year.

Stay Consistent: Kids love routine, which is why it is so important to stay consistent with their sleep routine once you begin the transition, and this means on weekends too. Allowing them to sleep in or stay up late on weekends will only make those Mondays that much more difficult.

Bedtime Routine: Having a daily bedtime routine is so important for our children to wind down from their busy days and get ready for a good night’s rest. Here is an example of a common bedtime routine:

  • Family dinnertime.
  • A relaxing bath after dinner.
  • Lotion and into their jammies.
  • Reading a few chapters from a book with mom and dad.
  • Singing a lullaby or calmly talking about how their day was.
  • The parent turns off the lights and saying goodnight.

Electronic Devices: It is so crucial that all electronics are turned off at least an hour before bedtime. This includes parents as well. The content on our electronics is so stimulating, and the light is tricking our brains into thinking we need to stay awake.

Sleep Environment: We want our children to associate their rooms with sleep and being a calm environment for them to relax. Make sure their room is cool (68-72 degrees), quiet, dimly lit, and comfortable. This will allow for their body temperatures to drop to get into a deep restorative sleep. Try using “white noise” from a sound machine. White noise creates a consistent, rhythmic sound that can be relaxing while drowning out all other disruptive or sudden noises in the home.

Nutrition and Exercise: It’s important that your children get plenty of exercise and get outside as much as possible during the day. This will help them wind down quicker at night. Healthy eating has been proven to promote quality sleep. Avoid feeding your children fatty foods and processed carbs as these foods will fill them up, but don’t contain the vitamins and nutrients needed to produce energy.

Having a healthy age-appropriate daily sleep routine for your child will make readjusting to the new school year that much easier for the whole family. They will start the year feeling fully rested and excited for the day; your child will have the best year yet!

Leah Nolan is a certified infant and toddler sleep consultant for The Sleepyhead Coach. She resides in Fairfield County, CT with her son and daughter (2.5 years and 9 months old). When she’s helping families with their sleep, she enjoys being out in nature with her kids, riding horses, and spending time with her family. Follow her at @thesleepyheadcoach_leah.


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