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Back to School Sleep Schedules for Kids

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Though there are still plenty of beach days and pool parties to be had, summer is coming to an end. The new school year is just around the corner, and it's time to get kids back to a more structured sleep schedule. Sleep deprivation can cause kids to  have trouble concentrating in school, exhibit hyperactive or defiant behavior and suffer from impaired memory. Get the academic year started right by easing kids back into healthy sleep habits before the first day of school.

Healthy kids' sleep schedules

Preschoolers: Preschoolers need between 11 and 13 hours of sleep per day.

Most preschoolers still benefit from an afternoon nap. Parents should check with preschool teachers or daycare providers to see if they offer nap time at a consistent time each day. If not, a preschooler may need an earlier bedtime to make up the difference.

In the two weeks leading up to the start of school, parents can gradually shift nap time at home to coincide with the school schedule. Making the shift in increments of 15 minutes per day lets a child adjust to the new routine before school starts.

To maximize a nap's effectiveness, parents should choose a spot that is cool, dark and quiet. For naps away from home, they can provide a favorite blanket and stuffed animal for comfort and routine.

Elementary School Children: School-aged children need a total of 10 to 11 hours of sleep per night.

Because children older than five no longer nap, it's crucial for parents to enforce a bedtime that allows at least 10 hours of sleep each night. They can choose a wake-up time that gives enough time to get dressed and eat a healthy breakfast without rushing, then count backwards to determine bedtime.

Strenuous exercise less than three hours before bedtime can rev kids up instead of tiring them out. Parents should limit sports and vigorous play to the pre-dinnertime hours.

Routine is important, so helping kids wind down with quiet reading and predictable bedtime routines like bathing and brushing teeth at the same time each night can help them sleep better. Children should maintain this routine over the weekend whenever possible.

Middle and High Schoolers: Teens need a total of eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

Parents need to talk to teens about the importance of healthy sleeping habits. They can lead by example and cut out caffeine, nicotine and sugar, which can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

Overuse of screens in the form of TV, tablets and smartphones can also make it harder to fall asleep at night. Parents can help by enforcing screen time limits during the day and storing electronics in a common room instead of allowing them in the bedroom.

Adolescents are often overwhelmed by intense feelings. It may help to encourage teens to write their thoughts in a journal before bedtime so they can let go of worries and get a good night's sleep.

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