For many children, summer vacation provides the opportunity to stay up a little later—and sleep in a little longer. But that lax sleep schedule could make mornings difficult when it comes time to head back to school, according to Peter Bidey, instructor of family medicine at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
"Getting back on a normal sleep schedule doesn't just happen overnight," he explains. "A gradual transition back to regular sleep habits is essential. A drastic change in sleep habits can be a shock to your child's system."
Existing research shows that adequate sleep is beneficial to a child's mental health; without proper sleep habits, risk of anxiety and depression can rise, while academic performance can fall. And starting out the school year on the right academic path can set the tone for the rest of the year.
According to Bidey, the time to begin transitioning children into a regular sleep schedule is now. "It should start at least a week before school begins," he says. "Parents can begin waking their children up earlier each day with an alarm clock, and sending their child to bed a bit earlier each night."
To help with those hectic mornings before school, Bidey suggests streamlining activities so there's very little to do.
"Parents can pack lunches and lay out school clothes the night before," he suggests. "That will help them stay calm in the mornings, which will in turn keep children calm."
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine