How could parents help their kids get enough sleep and refreshed for school?
We’ve gathered top tips advice from 20 sleep experts about how parents can help their kids get enough sleep to get refreshed for school.
The amount of sleep an individual need varies with age. But generally speaking kids, especially school children need more sleep than the adult. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, young school children from 3-10 years of age need around 11-12 hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation, on the other hand, recommends 9-11 hours of sleep for kids aged 6-13 and 8-10 hours for teens aged 14-18 years old.
Children who do not get enough amount of sleep have a hard time controlling their emotions and are likely to have behavior problems, according to WebMD.com. They may be hyperactive, have trouble paying attention and be overweight.
Another consequence is that they can have a drop in IQ equivalent to lead poisoning, according to a study from the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. It can also impair a child’s ability to complete a task that requires a higher level of thinking later in life if it persists, according to researchers at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.
It is without a doubt that sleep is necessary for a child’s developing body. However, for a variety of reasons, parents find it hard to get their kids the sleep they need. It is one of the major concern of parents as it affects the development and growth of their children.
Claire Bamford of Sleepnanny.co.uk
Consider early bedtimes for your little ones. School is a busy time for your little ones, they’re learning lots and constantly on the go to make sure they’re getting a good night sleep so they’re waking up refreshed.
Factor in some “talking time” as part of your little one’s bedtime routine. Your little ones may be excited, worried or anxious about certain parts of their school day so make sure you talk to them about it and let them express this to you. If your little ones are going to bed super excited or super anxious then they’re not likely to sleep well so let them offload during their routine.
Keep their bedtime routines consistent. With everything happening at school, they have lots going on and they will rely on you to be consistent so make sure they have a good solid routine to help them wind down and stick with it.
Marta Neto founder of Gentlesleepconsultant.co.uk
After school, ask your child about their day. Ask age appropriate, open questions to get as much information as you can. For example: Tell me one thing that made you laugh today? What was the cleverest thing you said/did today? Allow enough time for the conversation to flow. Your child needs to feel safe and connected with you in order to allow him/herself to relax and welcome sleep
Have a relaxing bedtime routine:
- The last 2 hours before bed should be screen free. Encourage your child to have quiet play, read a book, draw, help you with your chores
- Prepare a bath each night. Add a couple of Lavender Essential Oil drops
- Spend time in their bedroom reading calm stories before saying good night
Children need to have enough sleep in order to feel refreshed in the morning. Experiment until you find the optimal bedtime for your child. Is it difficult to wake your child in the morning? If so, they will need to go to bed earlier.
Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ, founder of Terrycralle.com
A family should take time discussing with family members including children the importance of sleep. It should be done during the day and not at bedtime where everybody is tired. I sum up four tips below that will help parents have their kids get the sleep to be more ready for school.
The first thing is that parents should make young children understand that sleep is a positive and not a negative thing. It should not be used as a threat or as a punishment. Sleep and bedtime routine should be presented with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of their lives. Parents should educate kids on how lack of sleep can impact one’s mood, health and academic ability.
Second thing is that empowering children with choices before bedtime. If we empower children with simple choices like the color of pajamas they want to wear, the color of pillowcase they want to sleep on, they will be more accountable, more responsible and might develop good sleep habits and good hygiene early in life.
The third is to let them be aware of the sleep they need and let them do their own bedtime math. Let them figure out an appropriate bedtime. Show them a list about how much sleep they need according to their age then let them do some calculation. If he is nine years old and requires 10-11 hours of sleep, let him do some math to find out what time should he go to bed.
Fourth is to provide an environment conducive to sleep. Remove stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home. Televisions, tablets or smartphones should also be removed from the child’s room. Do some relaxing activities before bedtime like board games or puzzles to move away from that blue light from their phones out of their eyes.
Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., MD, FRCP of Sleep.med.harvard.edu
In order to get a good night sleep, you have to identify the “sleep stealers” in your environment. It can sometimes be a pet that jumps in and out of the bed. Do not sleep with an animal that can impair your health by disturbing your sleep.
Electronics should be banned in the bedroom. They should be put in a separate room or locked in a cabinet.
Reut Gruber, Professor at McGill University
Have a bedtime routine. Though routine depends on the family’s lifestyle, having bedtime routines for kids like having dinner together, take a bath, read bedtime stories and kissing goodnight can help them sleep with ease.
Turn off any electronic device an hour before bedtime which includes television.
If kids keep complaining about being sleepy for no reason, have him visit a doctor as it could be a sign for a sleep disorder. For instance, snoring and sleepiness can be a sign of sleep apnea.
Sarah Honaker, Ph.D. of Medicine.iu.edu
One of the reasons that kids may have a hard time going to sleep is that they have fears of the dark or imaginary monsters. I suggest playing during the daytime to make a child more comfortable when the lights are out.
Engage your child in games like hunting for stuffed animals in her room using a flashlight. Go with the child for the first couple of times and coax her to go alone as she feels more comfortable. Resist if the child insists to turn the light on. It is okay to use night-light, however, blue light might interfere with the release of the sleep-regulating hormone.
Another technique I would recommend is bedtime fading. Track what time the kid usually go to bed for the first two weeks. Use the latest time – say 9:30 pm – as his bedtime for the next few weeks. When your child begins to fall asleep as soon after getting in his bed, you may start moving closer to his ideal bedtime. The theory behind this is that the time the child spent tossing and turning has probably caused the child to associate fruitless behavior with his bed.
Judith Owens, M.D., of Aamsinfo.org
Kids would naturally make excuses and passes as not to go to bed early. Put a stop to repeat bedtime passes like going to the bathroom or requesting for water. Give him only two passes: one for a hug and another for a bathroom break or a drink. Praise him for using the passes and put him back to bed. If he doesn’t use both of the passes, he can trade them in for the next day as a reward.
For a parent of a teen, set sleep rules so that teens can meet the required 9 hours of sleep every night including weekends. Though naps can recharge teen’s batteries, they aren’t a substitute for a good night’s sleep.
Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, founder of Sleepmatters.ie
Bedtime routines should be carried out in the bedroom where the child will sleep and not elsewhere. It might break the spell and diminish its effectiveness. Allocate about 20 minutes for a pre-sleep ritual that takes place in the bedroom. It may include bath and brushing teeth. I would advice to use my magic number line outlined below:
5:00-5:30 pm- Dinner
6:00 pm- Final drinks/milk feeds
6.30 pm – Bedtime routine
6:50 pm – Into cot/bed
7:00-8:00 pm – Aim to be asleep.
Use dim/lamp light as it enhances the sleep hormone. Indulge in plenty of physical and eye contact to help release relaxing hormones. You can also read stories, play games like stacking cup, wooden puzzles or shape sorting or even do some breathing exercise and meditations! You can also play music or white noise in the background. Bedtime routines should be done outside the bed. Reserve the bed for sleeping.
Make bedtime routine ending the same each night. An “I love you ritual” that concludes the process and signals the child to get into his bed is advised. If the child resists, your stay-and support approach can help ensure the child feels safe and secure during this transition.
Long screen time exposure may contribute to child resistance to sleep. The screens can falsely restore the body clock that makes the child experience a re-charge of their batteries. It will make bedtime battle longer. Replace daytime screen time with green time by encouraging kids to engage in physical activities. If the child is active enough the day, he can be able to sleep with ease.
The child’s diet can have an impact on his sleep. Avoid foods with high sugar or processed food and limit fruit consumption to 2 portions a day. High natural exposure can make kids over-stimulated. Be watchful of the diet that has hidden sugars.
Kerry O’Neill of Sleepnanny.co.uk
- Have some quiet, calm, screen-free time for an hour before bed – screens and certain lights can actually prevent all of us from feeling sleepy as they give off blue light, which is very similar to the light given off by the sun. This light enters the eyes and the receptors prevent the production of melatonin, which is the sleepy hormone. It might be that watching some cartoons seems to help your child wind down, but perhaps try this a little earlier, then have some quiet reading or chatting time with you (great for maintaining a secure attachment with you) before you start the bedtime routine. This will really help their mind and body settle down, as that lovely sleepy hormone melatonin isn’t being blocked, and they will have a more restful, restorative night’s sleep.
- Early nights will really help – if your little one has a busy week, or has just gone back to school after a holiday, and is suddenly waking early, it’s likely they’re overtired for all the excitement and stimulation of school; overtiredness can also show up in the form of those dreaded bedtime battles or waking in the night. The best way to fix these is with early nights, so try shifting bedtime by half an hour so they can top up on sleep – it might feel hard to fit this in with homework, dinner and catching up on the day, but you’ll soon adjust to the new routine and it will really help them. And let them catch up on sleep at weekends too, I’m sure you’ll all appreciate the rest!
- Introduce a Worry Book – if your little one worries about things that have happened at school, it can stop them from settling to sleep (and we all know things seem worse at night!). So, when your child tells you something that’s concerning them, listen to them, reassure them and ask them to write it down in the Worry book, then tuck it under their pillow to sleep on. Tell them that the night is a really good problem solver and that things always seem much better in the morning. This will really help them to think about nighttime in a comforting and positive way, as well as helping them to express their feelings and tuck their problems away in the book. If your little one can’t write yet, then you could get them to draw it or tell them that the Worry book can catch their thoughts if they open a blank page and think very hard. However you do it, the Worry Book will really help your little one close down today’s problems before bed so they can fall asleep feeling calm and relaxed.
Andrea De La Torre, Founder of Tiniestdreamers.com
Schedules are your best friends. An appropriate and set bedtime makes a huge difference.
Respecting a sleep environment: a dark and quiet room. (or with moderate white noise) This also includes no screen time 2 hours before bedtime.
Professor Colin Espie of Sleep.io
Reserve bedroom for sleep. Bedrooms are supposed to be places for rest and relaxation. So, take away any disruptive influences like mobile phones, tablets, and laptops in your child’s room. Screens from this devices produce a lot of blue light that suppress our natural sleep hormone. Avoid activities like playing games and watching movies as they will keep your kids alert and engaged.
Energize your kids at the right time. Undertake energizing activities earlier in the day and avoid them as the evening approach. Exercise can elevate alertness for several hours so try to avoid it no later that afternoon.
Emma Purdue founder of Babysleepconsultant.co.nz
- Limit screen time after 4 pm in order to allow the body to naturally produce melatonin, the sleep hormone required to fall asleep. Discouraging screens after bath time and instead of reading with a bedside light will allow the body to naturally get sleepy and children to actually have a better quality and thus more restorative sleep overnight.
- Children get anxious about school and this can cause difficulty in falling asleep. Try working with emotion cards with school-age children to help them identify and name the tricky emotions they feel about school and the stressful events which go on at school. Use this time to connect with your child, listen, allow them to name their emotion, understand it’s normal and move on. As a parent, we try to problem solve but this sends the message to our children that these tricky emotions need to be solved, rather than just acknowledged, and this causes difficulty sleeping as their little minds need to process, label the emotion and put it to the side to fall asleep.
- If you have a child who wakes up tired or struggles to fall asleep before an exciting event such as school, practice children’s sleep meditation before bed. I encourage children to imagine they are their favorite animal, we then use mindfulness strategies to relax all the limbs of the said animal and allow the body to get ready for sleep without telling the children the focus is on sleep. Sleep is such a strange concept for children, yet relaxing and lying down, focusing on breathing are all easily achievable actions which usually result in sleep!
Nitun Verma MD, Spokesperson at American Academy Sleep Medicine
Maintain a bedtime routine. Bedtime routine will likely to change when your kid gets older when he’s able to put himself to bed. However, the basics of going active to quieter activities and ditching from all forms of electronics still apply.
Limit after-school activities. Though extracurricular activities are important, too many of them coupled with a lot of homework can push the bedtime later and later.
Don’t let weekends throw you off. Sleeping long on weekends and staying up late could jeopardize your child’s sleep the following week. Try to avoid them if possible.
Prof. Paul Gringas, founder of Kidssleepdr.com
- Take away any gadgets at least an hour before bed. Even a very brief exposure like two minutes can put sleep off as much as two hours.
- Bedtime routines like bath, reading stories, time with Mum and Dad
- Bedtime expectations like we’ve expect you to stay in your bed, and if you do we may reward you
- Put the blackout blinds
- Soft, continuous-play music
- Go for dim or red lights if the child demands a nightlight. A human brain is not so sensitive to red light.
Encourage “self-soothing.” Waking up four or five times in the night is perfectly normal for a child. However, they should be able to “self-soothe” – go back to sleep on their own. Focus on what your child needs to get to sleep at the beginning of the night and remove the things that shouldn’t be there when they wake up in the middle of the night. So:
- Cuddle your child by all means, but not until he falls asleep
- Sit and talk with him
- Break the association between food or milk and falling asleep.
Keep track of your child’s sleep behavior. Write down what you do when putting him to sleep and when you try to get them back to sleep. You will come up with your child’s sleep pattern and will often help solve a problem.
Apply the cold turkey. It may be a little bit harsh, but it is effective. If you are strong enough, simply leave your child to cry. Sleep units in Australian hospital have trained nurses that help mothers not to go to their crying babies.
If cold turkey is not for you, try a more gradual approach like spending a little less time with your crying child each night.
Zheng (Jane) Fan, MD at UNC Health Care
The key to better sleep to kids is to have a routine. Bedtime routine changes as the kids get older – it may include a shower and story reading.
Exercise during daytime is also a great way to ensure a good night’s sleep. The more exercise he gets, the deeper his sleep will be. Also, make sure to turn off electronic devices in the room as it may disrupt the child’s sleep.
I do not recommend catching sleep on weekends. Our brain and organs need a regular sleep-wake cycle. If your kid wakes up at 6 am during the week but at 9 am, it’s like shifting back and forth from Eastern to Pacific Time. The brain may be constantly tired and his organs may not function properly. Do not shift bedtime by more than one to two hours on a weekend.
Claire McCarthy, MD of Health.harvard.edu
Make sleep a priority. Set a non-negotiable bedtime. Count back the number of hours starting from the time when your child needs to get up. This may be tougher for tweens and teens as it may take a lot of conversation and decision. It may mean cutting back on some activities and pushing some of the leisure activities like video games to weekends and getting homework done earlier.
Start the bedtime routine earlier. If bedtime is 9, then start winding up at 8:00 pm or 8:30 pm so they are ready to fall asleep by 9.
Shut off the screens. The blue light emitted by the screens can promote wakefulness and make it harder for the brain to fall asleep. It is also true for small screens like phones and tablets as they are held closer to the face. Turn them off an hour before bedtime.
Charge the phones outside the room or set it in a Do Not Disturb mode. Buy your child an alarm clock if he insists to use it as an alarm. Another way to be sure your child gets enough sleep is too.
Keep the same sleep routines on weekends and vacations. A little leeway is okay, like staying or waking up an hour or so later on weekends. However, changing schedules can throw off your kids body. They will do much better when sleep schedule is the same.
Remember that children pay more attention to what the adults do than they say. Better make your sleep a priority. Modeling what you are saying will make it easier for your child to follow your rules.
Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D., founder of Sleeppsychology.com
Create a bedtime routine and stick with it. Set calming activities before bedtime like reading, taking a bath, drinking milk and giving hugs and kisses. Try to keep the same activities as much as possible.
Make sure your kids are not engaging in physical activities too close to bedtime or eat sugary foods. They will make him active and will have a hard time sleeping.
Kids may have a tendency to stall before bedtime.
They may ask you to read them one more book, give them more hugs and kisses or may request for a glass of water. However, stick to the bedtime routine! Emphasize to him that kids who sleep better also do better in school. Don’t allow stall tactics to become their routine. Set limits in a kind and calming way.
Get everyone involved in the routine. Kids are likely to stay up because they feel like they’re going to miss something. You can dim the light to show him that it’s dark outside and everybody is asleep.
Don’t use sleep as a punishment. Create a positive view of sleep in your child. Avoid saying lines like“If you don’t do this, you’re going to bed.” You can say something like: “ Everybody needs sleep; it’s how we grow big and strong. You’ll have a great day tomorrow because you’ll feel rested. Sleep is important for your brain to work.”
Don’t go to bed with your child. As a parent, you may have a tendency to lie down in bed with your kids. However, doing so is like teaching your child that they need you and can’t fall asleep without you.
Teach your kids to self-soothe. You can give him a transitional object such as a stuffed animal or blanket that is comforting for him. Parents don’t have to be there for their kids to fall asleep.
Sleep schedules of kids during summer might change as they may be allowed to stay up later or sleep longer. Heed to the advice of the two experts on how to reestablish their sleep hygiene.
Rachel Helyar founder of Rachelsleepconsultant.com
2) Keep weekends calm to fill up their sleep tanks
3) Have a consistent bedtime routine every day
Wendy Hall of Thefussybabysite.com
Sleep schedules on summer may change due to leisure activities or just being able to stay up or out later.
I advise parents to begin shifting bedtime routine starting mid-August. They should encourage their kids to go to bed 10-15 minutes earlier and also wake up 10 minutes earlier. It will help the child manage his circadian shift. Changing bedtime routine in one swoop like moving it 30 minutes or an hour will make the child more resistant to go to bed.
Parents may diminish pre-bedtime activities that may interfere with sleep like screen time, vigorous exercise or caffeine. Long-term exposure to screen time has an adverse effect on the quality of sleep.
Establishing a “no screens” rule in the bedroom is advised. However, parents should model this rule and refrain from keeping electronics in their own room as well.
Encourage to re-establish younger kids bedtime routines like brushing teeth or reading a story. For teenagers, they can set a bedtime schedule and encourage teenagers to adhere to it.
Aside from helping kids to alter their sleep routines, I also advised parents to change their sleep routine themselves. It would be easier for them to encourage kids to get a good sleep if they are modeling what they are saying.
Sally Ibrahim, MD of Cleveland Clinic
Waking up close to the time needs to wake up for school in one to two weeks prior to school can reset the body clock. Falling asleep will come earlier naturally. As much as possible, keep the wake time similar on weekends during the school year.
Go 30 minutes at a time. The sleep clock of your kids will not automatically shift the day the school starts. However, you can start reestablishing their body clock by shifting their wake time earlier by 30 minutes each morning or every other morning. You will see that they will get sleepier earlier for an earlier bedtime.
Provide a sleep-conducive environment. The bedroom should be relatively quiet two hours before bedtime. It means no exercise, no exercise, no caffeine, tablets, television and no cellphones. Put heavy drapes that darken the room at bedtime. It will signal their bodies to fall asleep.
When it’s time to wake up, allow the bright sunlight to enter the room and enforce no light from tablets/phones/computers in bed.
Reward your child for sticking to the sleep schedule. It may serve as extra motivation.
The Best Eight Advice
Based on the gathered information from the best sleep experts in the industry, we have come up with the best eight tips from the sleep experts above
- Make sleep a priority. Discuss with your family especially children the importance of sleep. Get everybody involved. It is best to do it in the morning and not during bedtime.
It is advised for parents to model what they are saying. If kids see that their parents are prioritizing their sleep, they are likely to do the same.
2. Make bedtime routines and stick to it. Bedtime routines may include calming activities like taking a bath or shower and brushing of teeth. Breathing exercises or meditations are also advised. Make sure that bedtime routines are the same each night.
3. Energize at the right time. Engage your kids in daytime physical activities. However, limit any vigorous physical activities at night as they can cause alertness and make him hard to sleep.
4. Ditch from all electronic devices. As much as possible, take away any electronic devices in the child’s room like phones, tablets, television, computers. You can locked them in a cabinet or put them in a separate room. Limit exposure to screens as bedtime approaches.
Blue light emitted by the screens can falsely restore the body clock and suppress the natural sleep hormone.
5. Respect a sleep-conducive environment. Keep the room dark and eliminate lights if possible or use dim light. Put curtains or blind to avoid outside light. Keep the kid’s room cool.
6. Do not use sleep as a punishment. Give your kids a positive view of sleep. Educate them on its importance on their growth and development. Instead of using sleep as a punishment, reward them if they religiously follow their sleep hygiene.
7. Teach kids to self-soothe. It is normal for kids to wake up three to four time each night. So teaching him how to self-soothe or going back to sleep is advised. You can give him a stuffed animal or a comforting blanket for this transition.
8. Watch out of your kid’s diet. Avoid processed food and those that are high in sugar. High sugar consumption can make kids over-stimulated.
Sleep plays a vital role in the kid’s growth and development not just physically but mentally. Conclusively, it affects the kid’s performance in school. It could also affect their behavior and IQ level. It is the reason why getting the right amount of sleep for their growing kids is one of the major concerns of most parents.
Lack of sleep could lead to poor school performance, mood swings, hyperactivity, and short attention span. It can even cause obesity!
Kids’ performance in school is one of the determining factors of their success in life and career in the future. It is normal for parents to seek advice. It explains why a lot of parents rely on the wisdom of sleep experts to make sure their kids are getting the required amount of sleep for their age. Some parents may even willing to pay a good amount just to make sure their kids get enough.
Heed on to the advice of the reliable sleep experts above. Read their best tips and apply them to your kids. It might be hard to make or embrace changes at first, however, you and your kids will surely reap its benefits.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic