Back to Sleep

SleepBy Gary Montgomery, M.D., Director, Children’s Sleep Center

The inevitable end to summer’s late nights and lazy mornings is almost here, and before we know it, we will be heading back to the carpool lane for our kids’ first day back at school. With so much to do as we prepare our families for school, we often forget that going back to school means getting back to sleep, and without proper preparation, rediscovering a sleep routine can be a struggle.

Staying up late and sleeping in longer may be your child’s dream, but the subsequent shift in the body’s natural circadian rhythm makes the return to earlier sleep and wake-up times more difficult. 

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Teenagers need approximately nine hours of sleep.

Here are tips to help your kids get back on track:

  • Start going to sleep earlier, earlier. How do you do this? By waking up earlier and earlier in the morning! Two to four weeks before the first day of school, begin shifting the time your child gets out of bed in the morning and the “lights out” time at night. Start with the usual time the child is waking up and gradually move to about 30 minutes earlier every other day. You will be amazed at how easy it is for your child to fall asleep at the earlier time.
  • No more napping.  Summer siestas are definitely a perk of the season, but in order to get your child back into a school routine, naps have to be removed from the summer schedule.  It will help your child be more tired at night, thus encouraging an earlier bedtime. In addition, be sure to limit any sleeping in on weekends, especially during the schedule changes discussed above.
  • Allow time for winding down at night. In the mornings, emphasize physical activity, outdoor play, exercise and bright light, and reserve winding down time for the evening with indoor play, dim light and quiet activities as bedtime nears. Avoid physical activity two to three hours before bedtime and “screen time” in the last hour before bedtime.
  • Stick to the routine. Once you achieve your goal for the best bedtime and wake-up time for transitioning to school, keep your kids on that schedule. A sleep routine makes it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning.
Dr. Montgomery has special expertise in the diagnosis and management of pediatric sleep disorders, apnea and other disorders of respiratory control.

Dr. Montgomery specializes in pediatric sleep disorders, apnea and other disorders of respiratory control.

  • Create a “dream” environment. Make sure your child’s bedroom is a great space for relaxing and drifting off to sleep. The ideal environment is cool, dark, quiet and comfortable. A few minutes of one-on-one time to talk about the day and get a big hug before “lights out” can be a really special way to top off the day.

Head here for more tips on preparing your family for going back to school.

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