With back to school comes back to routine. Part of that routine always includes getting the kids — and parents — to bed earlier, so they can wake up refreshed and ready for a day of class. But after a summer of staying up late chasing fireflies and running through the sprinkler, followed by lazy mornings, how can you get to sleep before the first day of school?


According to a National Sleep Foundation 2011 poll, school-aged children sleep an average of 1.5 hours less than the recommended 10 to 11 hours per night on school nights, and only 20 percent of adolescents get the recommended nine hours of sleep per night on school nights, with nearly half of all adolescents sleeping less than eight hours on school nights.


To get the zzzz’s you need for back to school, try some of these tips for the whole family:


  • Start early. At least two weeks before school starts, begin moving your child’s bedtime up 15 minutes at a time, a few nights at a time, to start getting adjusted to the new bedtime. You can also wake your child in the morning closer to the time he will need to be up for school, to help his body slowly adjust to the new night-and-day rhythm.
  • Turn everything off. That means TVs, computers, cell phones and gaming systems, and even dim the lights at least an hour before bedtime. Read books, play soft music, tell stories or chat as a family, gradually allowing the body to relax.
  • Avoid caffeine. You might be surprised just how much caffeine is in common treats such as a can of cola (25 mg) or a piece of dark chocolate (30 mg). Because caffeine stays in your body up to six hours, avoid it in the afternoon.
  • Exercise. Moving throughout the day tires out your body and helps you sleep better.
  • Establish a consistent bedtime routine. This could include putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, sharing a book and giving a kiss goodnight — anything quiet that signals sleepy time. For older children, this means lights out occurs at the same time every night.
  • Create a cozy sleep cave. Make sure the room is not too hot or cold — recommended sleep temperature is between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit — and that you and your child have comfortable pillows. If sun is still up at bedtime, put up room-darkening shades.
  • Know how much you need. According to NSF, children need a certain number of hours of quality sleep depending on their ages: 3 to 5 years need 11 to 13 hours; 5- to 10-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours; ages 10 to 17 need 8.5 to 9.5 hours; adults need 7 to 9 hours.

Know other tricks for how to get to sleep? Leave us a note in the comments below.


MNN tease photo: Shutterstock