For many children and teens, summer vacation means late-night fun and sleeping in the next morning. But as summer vacation draws to an end, it’s important to help your kids get back on track with a healthy back-to-school sleep schedule.

Children ages 6 – 12 require 10 – 11 hours of sleep while teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep. Chronic sleep depravation in children has been linked to poor school performance, weight gain and obesity, behavioral issues and developmental and mood problems.

Sleep is important, and parents should start the back-to-school sleep schedule at least two to three weeks before school starts. Make sure to set a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up. Kids with bedtimes before 10 p.m. are much more likely to get enough sleep than kids with later bedtimes. If necessary, the schedule can be adjusted earlier at a gradual pace (about 15 minutes every two days) to ease the transition.

Here’s a sleep checklist to start working on with your kids to ease them back into a healthy sleep schedule.

  • In the last few days of summer vacation, wake your kids at the time they will be getting up for school. Activity and bright light help to “train” the brain to be awake in the morning. For example, send them outside to play rather than allowing them to sit in front of a TV. It’s better for their brain and body!
  • Be consistent with sleep schedules, even on the weekends. Their bedtime and wake-up time on the weekend should be within an hour of their bedtime and wake-up time during the school week.
  • Establish a relaxing evening routine. Avoid exercising or stimulating activities 2 – 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Create a sleep environment that is cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
  • Limit caffeine throughout the day, especially after lunch.
  • Avoid having a TV, computer or cellphone in the bedroom. Make sure to turn them off at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Make sleep a priority in your family, and set a good example.

If you’re concerned about your child’s sleep habits, talk to your pediatrician or contact one of our specialists in the Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin at (414) 266-2790.

Nan Norins, MD– Nan Norins, MD, pediatric sleep specialist, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

The Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only sleep center in the state dedicated solely to the care of children and teens. The center has two locations (Milwaukee and New Berlin) both accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by four board-certified pediatric sleep specialists.

Learn more about Nan Norins, MD.

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