Monday, August 31, 2009

Sleep: The magical back-to-school ingredient to ensure a great start in a new grade

Most of us are coming down the summertime home stretch. We're getting ready to send our kids with fresh backpacks to the next grade. Some parents are great about keeping the sleep routine in tact over the vacation months, but for most of us, the school sleep routine has gone out the window.

Follow these easy steps to get that all-important snooze time back on track and avoid that annoying back-to-school head cold.

1) Help your child adjust to an earlier bedtime a few nights before school starts. A lot of kids (and teachers) are too nervous and excited to sleep the night before a new school year begins anyway.

(Check out to read about back-to- school anxiety.)

2) Get into some serious exercise in the late afternoon. Take your kids swimming, have them help you wash the cars and squirt them with the hose, or play a game of soccer in the park. Do anything you can think of to wear them out.

3) Draw a relaxing bath (and try not to feel too jealous). Your child will not only wash off the sweat or chlorine, but you will set the stage for winding down the day. My sister-in-law used to say, "If a kid gets cranky, put 'em in water." And let's face it, grumpy kids are often tired kids.

4) Start the bedtime ritual about a half hour earlier each night until you reach your school-year zzz-time hour.
Plopping kids into bed too early when they're not used to it makes most kids restless and frustrated, not sleepy.
5) Snuggle and read a book together. If you have gotten out of the evening reading habit over the summer, this is an effective way to get the younger set back into the routine for school. For those who have kept up the reading ritual, bravo! Start a half hour earlier, and your good to go.
6) Turn on a fan during these last several warm evenings for white noise or play soft music. In just a few days, playing the same sound will lull your little one to sleep.
7) Be firm. Tell your child that once the lights go out, he has to stay in bed (barring an injury or nightmare jitters that need soothing). If a face peeks around the corner, walk him back to bed, give hugs and kisses, and leave the room. Consistency now will make bedtime a happy time to look forward to all year.