How to Get Back to School Schedule and Maximize Sleep

Summertime is fun-filled with trips to the pool, vacations, movie nights, and late bedtimes. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. School starts soon and you might be wondering how to get back to a school schedule. This post will share tips to help your family start the school year out right!

Why is Back to School Difficult?

First, let’s review quickly why getting back to school schedule-wise is so difficult.

Our bodies have internal clocks and light stimulating our eyes is what signals our brain to wake or sleep. So, when we start to go to bed late, we signal our brain to move our internal clock later. Then, we start to sleep later and our entire “clock” shifts forward. This is what happens with Daylight Saving when we Fall Back or Spring Forward. It takes a few days to a week to adjust to the 1-hour time change.

During the summer, however, many of our children (mine included) get more off-schedule than just one hour. In fact, my sons have often gotten about 4 hours off schedule since they are teenagers, now. Therefore, it’s going to be more difficult than Daylight Saving to get them back to school schedules.

Here’s how to adjust your child’s schedule back to a school schedule:

2-3 Weeks Before School Starts: The Gradual Method in 2 Easy Steps

If you have time, it is best to start 2-3 weeks before school starts and ideally, they would be on the school schedule at least 2-3 days before school starts. They will have a much smoother first week of school if you put in the time and effort now. If you don’t have 2-3 weeks, please see below. I got you covered!

Step 1: Add Structure Back to Your Day

No need to create an entire faux school day, but try to add at least one or two things back into the structure of your day if things have slipped significantly. For example, if you let your kids set their own bedtimes in the summer, start having a bedtime again even if it’s initially “too late” for a school schedule. Similarly, if you’ve been letting them sleep until whatever time they want, start getting them up at the same time every day. Again, even if it’s “too late” for school, this gives you a starting point.

Try to make sure you set the initial schedule such that they are getting enough sleep. Most school-aged children need an average of 10 hours of sleep at night. However, keep in mind that sleep needs range from 9-11 hours depending on the age of your child and their unique needs. So, your starting schedule might be 11:00 PM bedtime and wake up for the day at 9:00 AM, for example.

Step 2: Start Waking Them Up Earlier…Gradually

If you’re starting 2-3 weeks early, you can make a more gradual change to keep the fatigue and crankiness away. This also allows you to enjoy a few more late nights, too!

But, you can’t just start going to bed earlier if you still sleep late. That’s just not how it works. We can’t force ourselves, or our kids, to fall asleep by a certain time but we CAN make ourselves wake up at a certain time. So, it’s easier to start there. So, wake them up a little bit earlier every day.

Here’s an idea of how it would work for a 2-week adjustment:

  • Days 1-2: Wake up at 8:45 AM and Bedtime at 10:45 PM
  • Days 3-4: Wake up at 8:30 AM and Bedtime at 10:30 PM
  • Days 5-6: Wake up at 8:15 AM and Bedtime at 10:15 PM
  • Days 7-8: Wake up at 8:00 AM and Bedtime at 10:00 PM
  • Days 9-10: Wake up at 7:45 AM and Bedtime at 9:45 PM
  • Days 11-12: Wake up at 7:30 AM and Bedtime at 9:30 PM
  • Day 13: Wake up at 7:15 AM and Bedtime at 9:15 PM
  • Day 14: Wake up at 7:00 AM and Bedtime at 9:00 PM

On the other hand, you can also shift in 30-minute increments instead like this:

  • Days 1-3: Wake up at 8:30 AM and Bedtime at 10:30 PM
  • Days 4-6: Wake up at 8:00 AM and Bedtime at 10:00 PM
  • Days 7-9: Wake up at 7:30 AM and Bedtime at 9:30 PM
  • Day 10: Wake up at 7:00 AM and Bedtime at 9:00 PM

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even though you are waking up your child earlier every day, they may or may not actually fall asleep “on time.” Still, stick with the correct bedtime and wake-up time the next day. You are signaling their internal clock if they are in bed even if they aren’t sleeping just yet.

Video About School Schedules

See me talk about this on the NBC News here:

1 Week Before School Starts: The Faster Method

Some of us aren’t so good about preparing ahead of time or maybe we don’t want to. Maybe we are enjoying the late nights!

If you have a child who isn’t prone to crankiness as much or you’re willing to brave a few rough days or, frankly, you have no choice, you can simply shift to a school schedule faster like this:

  • Days 1-2: Wake up at 8:30 AM and Bedtime at 10:30 PM
  • Days 3-4: Wake up at 8:00 AM and Bedtime at 10:00 PM
  • Days 5-6: Wake up at 7:30 AM and Bedtime at 9:30 PM
  • Day 7: Wake up at 7:00 AM and Bedtime at 9:00 PM

Go much faster than this and you might have a few really long and tiring days, plus your child is likely to be very tired by the time school starts. This is similar to jet lag while traveling. So, if possible, try to change your child’s schedule at least a week leading up to school starting.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Even though you are waking up your child earlier every day, they may or may not actually fall asleep “on time.” Still, stick with the correct bedtime and wake-up time the next day. You are signaling their internal clock if they are in bed even if they aren’t sleeping just yet.

Be sure to hear me talk about getting back to a school schedule on the No Guilt Mom Podcast!

Can I Let Them Stay Up Late on the Weekend?

With school schedules, we often have late bedtimes on the weekend. Can you do that when you’re adjusting their schedules back to school?

While you might be able to allow a late bedtime, I recommend you don’t let it shift by more than 30 minutes. Unfortunately, you run the risk of having to start all over if you do that.

What About After School Starts?

Once school starts, remember that they are likely to be extra tired. They are learning the new teacher’s rules, learning new information, meeting new friends, etc. And, if you have athletes, they are also expending energy playing their sport(s).

So, make sure you plan to have extra patience AND an early bedtime!

If your child normally needs 9 hours of sleep at night, consider allowing for 9 1/2 hours for the first week or two of school. Make sure you have some downtime on the weekend and don’t overbook yourselves, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow for enough sleep during the week due to outside activities, homework, etc.

What Is a Good Bedtime?

During the school year, make sure you have a bedtime that’s appropriately early for the amount of sleep they need. And, allow some downtime and fall-asleep time. Here are a few sample schedules to consider:

School Schedule Bedtime Chart

# of Hours Needed Wake-Up Time Bedtime
9 6:00 AM 9:00 PM
9 6:30 AM 9:30 PM
9 7:00 AM 10:00 PM
9 7:30 AM 10:30 PM
10 6:00 AM 8:00 PM
10 6:30 AM 8:30 PM
10 7:00 AM 9:00 PM
10 7:30 AM 9:30 PM
11 6:00 AM 7:00 PM
11 6:30 AM 7:30 PM
11 7:00 AM 8:00 PM
11 7:30 AM 8:30 PM

How to Stop Sleeping Through the Alarm

As our children get older, we want them to be more independent. Therefore, you might want to start having them set an alarm to wake themselves up. You might need to help them set it and make sure they do while getting them on their school schedule, of course. Unfortunately, we still have to parent sometimes but the more you put the job in their hands, the more independent they will become.

If you or your child is sleeping through their alarm, you or they are deep sleepers. You might be going to bed too late but you might also just need a louder and more vibrant alarm. I bought my teenage son the Sonic Bomb Alarm which is very loud and vibrates the bed. Works like a charm!

Conclusion

Getting enough sleep for your child can not only help them get better grades but also help avoid behavior problems and depression among other things. Sleep is vitally important for children and entire families to thrive. I hope these tips help you and your family, and you have a GREAT school year!

The post How to Get Back to School Schedule and Maximize Sleep appeared first on The Baby Sleep Site – Baby / Toddler Sleep Consultants.

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