How to Get Your Child Back on a Sleep Schedule for School

Updated: April 14, 2022
Ease the transition from a summer sleep schedule to a back to school sleep schedule with our top tips and ideas for ensuring good sleep hygiene and a well-rested child.
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After a long summer of going with the flow, later nights, and unstructured days, it can be tough getting back on a regular sleep schedule. Here’s how.

More: 6 Tricks to Help Your Toddler (or Preschooler) Go to Bed and Stay There!

Ready or not, the lazy days of summer are coming to an end, which means it’s time to get the kids back on track with an appropriate sleep schedule before school starts. Yes, we mean before, don’t wait until the first day of school and expect your child to jump right into their old routines. Leave time to ease into a transition so that by the time back-to-school is here, your kids are rested and ready.

Getting enough sleep is critical for academic success as well as overall wellness. When creating a sleep schedule keep the age of your child in mind to determine the appropriate amount of sleep that is necessary for a happy and healthy kid. Consult with your pediatrician if necessary so that you are confident you are setting the foundation for healthy sleep habits. Here are our top suggestions for getting sleep schedules back on track.

Wake Them Up Earlier

Chances are the days of summer entail lazy wakeups and later bedtimes. Give yourself time to start the wake-up process a little earlier each day as you lead up to the start of school. Even just 15-minute increments a day for a week will likely inch you close to the necessary wake-up time. Having a school routine ready, such as prepping outfits and lunches the night before, means kids don’t have to wake up hours before school starts. Set a consistent wake-up time that allows for a good night’s sleep but still enough time for your child to shake off the sleepiness before heading out the door.

Turn Off Electronics

It’s not a myth that electronics can affect sleep. Studies have shown that blue light screens such as TVs, tablets, computers, and cell phones emit suppress melatonin resulting in not feeling sleepy at bedtime and disrupting quality sleep. The best rule of thumb is to eliminate screen time an hour before kids head to bed. Think about what your child needs and when you can fit screen time in appropriately so that it does not affect their sleep habits. You don’t want your child to feel deprived of electronics, or like they are being punished, so instead, we recommend being intentional with creating a new schedule that allows for screen time prior to the last hour of the day.

Provide Relaxing Activities Before Bedtime

Now that you are working to eliminate screens prior to bedtime, shift to providing relaxing activities that will help your child wind down and decompress. This can either be independent quiet play, or a perfect opportunity to build in some quality family time. Some of our favorite screen-free recommendations prior to bed are reading books, coloring, working on puzzles, yoga stretches, Play-Doh, LEGOs, an evening neighborhood walk, or listening to an audiobook.

Create a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Start the new school year off with a consistent bedtime routine that creates predictability for your child. If you need earlier bedtimes, then you need to be starting your sleep routine earlier so that everything is completed and your child is climbing into their bed at the time you set, not starting a lengthy process. You know how many hours of sleep your child needs to avoid sleep deprivation, so setting consistent bedtimes and wake-up times is key. An example of a great bedtime routine is taking a bath/showering, putting on pajamas, setting out clothes for the morning, brushing teeth, reading a story. If your child’s internal clock isn’t yet telling them they are tired, many of these parts of their routine will start to signal to their bodies that it’s time to unwind and get ready to sleep.

Have a Relaxing Sleep Environment

One of our most important sleep tips is to create a relaxing sleep environment free of distractions. Avoid having too many toys or electronics available in a bedroom that will tempt your child and prevent good sleep habits. Instead, have a serene environment that will quickly cue a calm and relaxed mood. Blackout curtains and white noise are inexpensive and effective ways to help block out sound and light that can prevent deep sleep. After a predictable bedtime routine, tucking your child into their distraction-free space that is prepped and ready will make falling asleep that much easier. We know that kids view their bedrooms as their own space, and may want to fill it with all of their favorite things. However, having a calm and peaceful environment to retreat to is also important for your child’s well-being. They are stimulated all day long and having a calming space at the end of the day will help them sleep better.