Mommy Minute: How to ease your child into a back-to-school sleep schedule

Back to School

Five-year-old Ayla Black really likes to sleep.

This past summer, she’s taken sleeping in to a new level.

“She will sleep usually until 11:30, noon,” mom Allie Black said. “Her record has been 1 p.m. this summer.”

But in less than a month, Ayla will start morning kindergarten.

“I’m nervous for her teacher,” Allie Black said.

Doctors say if your child isn’t sleeping on a school time schedule, you should start to make changes at least two weeks out.

“You really want to be on the top of your game when you start a new school year,” said Dr. Cheryl Tierney-Aves of Penn State Health. “You want to be able to pay attention. You don’t want to be tired in class. You don’t want to be falling asleep.”

Tierney-Aves suggests going to bed 30 minutes earlier and waking up 30 minutes earlier, day by day, until kids reach the desired sleep schedule. Sending kids to bed several hours earlier right at the start, she says, is rarely successful and could make children feel like they’re being punished.

“For the majority of us, it’s not that simple,” she said. “As you are used to going to bed later and later, it’s as if you’re going to bed in a different time zone. So going to bed earlier is not that easy.”

Tierney-Aves says limiting screen time an hour before bedtime can help. Screen time has been linked to insomnia. She also says you should limit your child’s caffeine intake, cutting them off after lunchtime. Don’t let them exercise before bed and make sure their bed is for sleeping only, not other activities like talking on the phone or reading.

“It will definitely be difficult no matter what the first few weeks of school while she acclimates to kindergarten and being awake early,” Allie Black said.

Black said she will start to amend Ayla’s sleep schedule during the first week of August. But, she says, it will probably still be a struggle at first.

“She does like to sleep so I think she’ll either nap as soon as she’s done with half-day kindergarten or she’ll want to go to bed by 8:00 and it will be a little bit easier to put her to sleep,” she said.

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