It’s a parent’s favorite time of year and hopefully an exciting time for your kids as well. Amid the busyness of preparing the essentials your child needs for school such as fall clothes and supplies, one important back to school item that shouldn’t be forgotten is establishing a healthy routine for your children. An essential contributor to a healthy child is adequate sleep supported by a sleep schedule. It can be difficult to transfer from the flexibility of the summer days to the needed stability of early mornings and bedtimes. It’s important for everyone, but especially children, to have a sleep schedule established so that they are able to triumph over this school year.
What is a sleep schedule?
A sleep schedule is an important part of sleep hygiene. It means going to bed and waking up at the same time each morning. Too many adults don’t stick to a consistent sleep schedule, so it’s great to teach your children these habits now that will hopefully carry them through to adulthood.
Benefits of a Sleep Schedule
Children who do well in school are likely getting an appropriate amount of sleep. A 2013 study1 found increased performance in math and language skills when students were well-rested. When your child is going to bed inconsistently, their body will never be able to acclimate to get the sleep it needs consistently.
You likely know when your child needs more sleep based on their emotional stability. It may come out negatively in anger, tantrums or excessive crying for no reason. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that extensive and appropriate sleep is associated with improved emotional regulation.2 Sleep strengthens the mind and allows for quicker neurological processes.
Quicker Sleep Time
When your child is used to being in bed at a certain time each night, their body will be prepared to fall asleep at that time each night. This means they will be less likely to fight sleep because they truly feel tired. You can expect less last-minute calls for just “one” more drink of water.
If you haven’t been on a sleep schedule this summer, you may have noticed poor behavior from your child that isn’t typical for them. The good news is that this may be improved by simply changing up your nighttime routine. When you are confident and firm about their sleeping schedule, it will give them confidence and security at night time.
More Overall Sleep
It might seem obvious but when you put your child to sleep earlier and wake them up consistently, they will not only get more sleep but a higher quality of sleep. As they adjust to the new routine, they will fall asleep faster and get the rest their growing bodies crave. Even if they don’t fall asleep immediately, you are providing all of the right conditions for them to fall asleep soundly.
Quality sleep isn’t just important for adults’ heart health, but for everyone. For children, it can protect them from future damage. If they aren’t getting a healthy amount of sleep, their cortisol levels will be elevated at night, leading to a higher likelihood of heart disease. Additionally, if they feel rested, they will be more likely to partake in healthy physical activity during the day.
What kind of food do you crave when you’re tired? For many adults, it’s nutritionally weak and carb-filled foods. The same is true of children. Their eating habits are simply different when they are sleepy. This can cause unnecessary weight gain. Furthermore, sleep deprivation impacts the hormone leptin, which is what sends a signal to our minds that we are full.
Being back in school is going to expose your children to potential sickness and germs. Keep their immune system strong by letting their body build up defenses at night. When people sleep, their body produces infection-fighting proteins called cytokines. Even if your child is starting to get sick, getting their REM cycle in can help them to fight off the sickness quicker.
The Sleep Necessities for Children
The amount of sleep children need changes dramatically from the newborn stage up to eighteen years old. These are the suggested guidelines for healthy sleeping children.
Toddlers: 11-14 Hours
3-5 Years: 11-13 Hours
6-13 Years: 9-11 Hours
Teenagers: 8-10 Hours
How does your child’s sleep currently stack up to the recommendations? If you’re not quite there, you can start getting them on track now. One-quarter of parents believe that their children get one hour less sleep than they should on school nights3. So if you feel like you aren’t doing so well in these areas, you aren’t alone. These habits can be changed by sticking to a schedule that will improve the overall quality of your child’s life. If you have more questions about sleeping habits, reach out to us today.
- Luciane Bizari Coin de Carvalho, et al. “Symptoms of sleep disorders and objective academic performance.” Sleep Medicine Journal.
- Impact of Sleep Extension and Restriction on Children’s Emotional Lability and Impulsivity Reut Gruber, Jamie Cassoff, Sonia Frenette, Sabrina Wiebe, Julie Carrier Pediatrics Nov 2012, 130 (5) e1155-e1161; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-0564
- “2014 Sleep in America® Poll: Sleep In The Modern Family–Summary of Findings.” National Sleep Foundation.