Now is the time to get your kids on the school year sleep schedule, doctors say

MADISON, Wis. — We may still be a month away from most kids returning to school, but local doctors say now is the time to get your kids into their school year routine.

Kids of all ages have likely spent the summer staying up later than normal and sleeping in more in the morning — a routine that takes more than a couple of days for their bodies to get out of.

“Teens and pre-teens especially spend the summer months staying up late and getting up at different times every day, and it can be a challenge to get back into a regular sleep schedule,” pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Rachna Tiwari of UW Health said.

Doctors say it’s always best to ease back into the school year sleep schedule to make the changes less jarring. They recommend parents start by sending kids to bed 15 minutes earlier than they have been going to bed in the summer, then waking them up in the morning 15 minutes earlier than they have been getting up. Parents can continue moving bedtimes up by 15-minute increments and wake-up times back by the same amount every few days until they get to the desired sleep schedule.

Dr. Tiwari says doing that will make the first week of school less jarring for everyone — including parents.

“It will also mean that your child is fully awake and prepared to learn when school begins,” Dr. Tiwari said.

If your kids are having trouble falling asleep at earlier times, local sleep experts recommend trying a quiet, relaxing activity before bedtime that does not include TV or phone screens.

As a general guideline, kids between 6 and 13 years old should get between nine and 11 hours of sleep every night, while teens between the ages of 14 and 17 should get about eight to 10 hours of sleep per night. Consistent pre-bedtime routines can help older kids wind down and get the amount of sleep they need, too — while they’re too old for story time, things like taking a shower, quiet reading of their own, or listening to music for an hour before bed can help.

“Starting to change these patterns now will go a long way to making kids’ sleep routines better during the school year and give your children more energy and focus during the school day,” Dr. Tiwari said.

You can find more of News 3 Now’s Back to School coverage by clicking here.