Keeping kids on track: avoiding late nights and later mornings during summer

A healthy sleep schedule can get thrown out the window when school ends. Here's how to keep it in place.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – We’re well into summer break now, and by this time, there’s a decent chance your children are getting off their school sleeping schedule. As the days grow longer and the nights get shorter, there’s good reason to keep things in check.

Dr. Michael Scott Applegate from Children First Pediatrics says the issue can snowball. “When they get off cycle like that, they have trouble getting up early in the morning. When they have trouble getting up early in the morning, they sleep in late. When they sleep in late, they have trouble getting to sleep at a regular bedtime later on, and it just feeds on itself. It’s a cycle.”

So how do you fight the problem? First off, don’t fight. A gentle approach is best here. If you go in guns blazing, you’ll most likely end up with an upset child, and they can start to associate bedtime with a battle.

It’s also a good idea to have reasonable expectations. Sure, you want your kids to get to bed at a reasonable hour, but remember how late the sun goes down. It’s pretty tough for anybody to get to sleep when it’s still bright outside. Of course, that same rule of thumb works when you need to get the kiddos up and at ’em in the morning. Throw open the curtain and let that sunlight pour in.

It’s always best to get into that healthy routine sooner than later, because as the summer winds down, so does the opportunity to make the transition a bit easier.

“I typically advise all of my families that if they’re getting back into the school year that at least a month ahead of time they start getting back into a healthy sleep routine”, says Dr. Applegate. “It is difficult on the kids.”

A way to foster those good habits is to be in control of the wind-down process: start turning off screens and powering off electronic devices around an hour to an hour-and-a-half before bedtime.

Then comes the million dollar question… how long should kids be sleeping? According to Dr. Applegate, school-age children should be getting at least 9 hours, but 10 hours a night is preferred. Any less, and children experience the same side effects from lack of sleep that their parents are so used to, like lack of focus.


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