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how to transition your family into a back-to-school routine

While summer is still here for a while, summer vacation is ending for many of us.

With the end in sight, planning the transition into back-to-school routines is essential to help everyone in your family start the last part of the year well-rested and ready to go.

Children’s schedules naturally shift during the summer with the late sunsets and relaxed mornings. Bedtime often gets pushed to accommodate outdoor play and memorable moments with friends.

Going back to school means going to sleep and getting up earlier. This doesn’t sound like much fun, and doing this cold turkey causes a lot of stress for families in the first week of school. With a bit of prep, you are way better off!

Start adjusting sleep schedules to school schedules before school begins.

Telling your kids their new bedtime is an hour earlier and that the alarm will go off at 06:30 tomorrow might not win you the prize of best vacation buddy. So, here are a few tips on how to successfully shift the bedtime back to school time and get routines in place so you can hit the ground running smoothly. These tips apply to kids and parents alike, and they are easy enough so everyone can make them work.

1. Understand the Importance of Sleep:

Not just does sleep help our ability to concentrate and form memory, but it also supports our immune system and overall well-being.

Good sleep helps all of us be less stressed: changing routines and going back to school (new teachers, maybe new classes, or a new school) stresses everyone - kids and parents.

Sleep also helps us to regulate our emotions. By ensuring we get enough of it, temper tantrums can be less or less explosive, and we as parents are more patient and can better manage emotional outbreaks.

2. How much sleep do we all need?

According to the CDC, children and adults need the following amounts of sleep:

  • School (6-12 years): 9 - 12 hours

  • Teen (13-18 years ): 8 - 10 hours

  • Adult (18-60 years): 7 or more hours

Look at where you and your family fall on this spectrum and then at what that means for everyone’s bedtime.

  • How much sleep does each individual need? After how many hours do they naturally wake up for the day without an alarm?

  • How long does it take everyone to get ready and out the door in the morning?

  • What does that make their bedtime?

Add about 15 - 30 minutes to that to account for the time to fall asleep.

3. Gradually Shift Bedtime Schedules:

To help everyone adjust to a school-year sleep schedule, gradually shift your kids and your bedtime a week or two before school starts.

Begin by moving bedtime 15 minutes earlier every 3 - 4 nights if your child doesn’t do well on routine changes.

You can move in 30-minute increments every 3-4 days if the person does well with routine changes.

Shifting bedtime earlier by more than half an hour at a time often leads to laying in bed and being unable to fall asleep. This applies to adults and kids alike and often causes frustration for everyone involved.

Doing it gradually gives the body time to adjust to the new schedule.

4. Set Consistent Bedtime and Wake-Up Times:

Consistency is critical when establishing healthy sleep routines.

Determine an appropriate bedtime that allows for the recommended amount of sleep for your child's age group and stick to it throughout the week, including weekends. Establishing consistent wake-up times is equally important as it helps regulate the body's internal clock.

Adults should also have a sleep-and-wake window that doesn’t shift more than an hour on weekends compared to weekdays. This is especially important if sleep isn’t solid.

5. Make sure the bedroom is cool and dark.

It is recommended to keep the thermostat set between 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 to 20 degrees Celsius) for the best sleep. Play around with the temperature if you can set your thermostat by room.

If you can only set the temperature centrally, drop the room temperature by 1 to 2 degrees after dinner.

Our body temperature needs to drop by one degree for our bodies to produce enough melatonin and fall asleep well.

Use blackout curtains to block all light from entering the room at night.

5. Prep for the mornings at night or on the weekend

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few minutes in the morning to start the day with the hustle and bustle?

Look at what you can prep on the weekends (meals, snacks, bags for soccer practice and dance, etc) or the night before.

Making this a habit will leave everyone with more energy in the morning.

6. Encourage Healthy Habits:

Incorporate healthy habits into your family’s daily routine to support better sleep.

Encourage regular exercise, but ensure it's just a short distance from bedtime, as it can be energizing.

Limit caffeine consumption, especially in the afternoon and evening, as it can interfere with sleep.

Make sure to drink enough water or caffeine-free teas throughout the day. Dehydration raises cortisol (our stress hormone) and can cause sleep issues.

Eat a balanced diet made from whole foods to nourish your body.

Yes, ice cream is a big part of our summer memories. The ice cream truck might still arrive at your house after dinner, but, try and avoid too much sugar and chocolate at night (chocolate contains caffeine) as it doesn’t help us fall asleep.

Rather, have the ice cream earlier in the day.

7. Lead by Example:

Remember, parents play a pivotal role in setting an example for their children. Prioritizing sleep and following a bedtime routine benefits parents and fosters a positive sleep culture within the family.

With a little effort and a commitment to healthy sleep habits, the entire family can approach the back-to-school season well-rested and ready to tackle the year ahead. So, let's embrace this transition with positivity and set the foundation for a successful and rejuvenating school year!

If you're struggling to fall asleep, connect with one of the sleep experts at Sleep Like a Boss to get to the root of your sleeping problems!


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