It’s Time to Get Our Kids Back on a Regular Sleep Schedule.

Between the ruin of normalcy in the spring and this long, boring summer that we all wade through, one thing that parents may have stopped paying attention to is the constant bedtime. Sometimes I decide that’s enough (for now) and my son needs to go to bed at a decent hour, but mostly I just ask, “What does bedtime matter matter?”

Of course it matters. Or it will make a difference whether it’s August or September when our kids are expected to get up early and ready to learn in some weird new way. This fall will be stressful for them, whether they are trying to work from home or trying to spend the day at a distance and wearing a mask. If we add to this the “emaciated”, we are in for even greater disaster.

A week or two before school starts is a common time for parents when they suddenly realize that bedtime is getting late, and then all summer long, and they’d better start heading back the other way. But given the lack of structure that many children now live in, I would like to invite all of us to start going to bed now so that we have one less thing to worry about the weekend before school starts working again. The sooner we start, the slower and softer we can handle it.

Reduce bedtime

For young children who still rely on you to teach them how to manage bedtime, you can shorten bedtime by cutting back on their daily routine. A short shower instead of a long bath. Two books instead of three, 10 minutes of hugs instead of 15. As they get used to going to bed earlier, you can suggest adding these longer elements again, knowing that the routine should start a little earlier.

Wake them up

The best way to get kids to go to bed early is to make sure they are tired before bed. You can alleviate this by waking them up a little earlier in the morning. You don’t have to go straight for school wake-up time, but if they get up around 8:30 AM, start by setting your alarm for 8:15 AM. It doesn’t shock their sleep system much, but if you set it 10-15 minutes earlier every few days, it will help them get used to getting up on schedule and feel more tired before bed.

Enforce (or finally enforce) an on-screen curfew

Knowing our kids really need to turn these screens from one hour to sleep (the blue light they emit can contribute to poor sleep) and in fact performance can be two different things, especially now when screen times generally peak all the time. If one hour seems like a big jump right away, start by insisting that the devices turn off 30 minutes before the lights go out and gradually work up the time to an hour.

Or try some of these ideas

Getting our kids to go to bed (and stay in bed!) May be a little more difficult now, but it’s definitely not a new problem, and we’ve written about it many times in the past. You can find a couple of useful tricks here:

You (and your older children) also benefit from knowing how much sleep they really need based on age.


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