Getting kids to bed early for school is important.
Parents, you can already picture those first mornings of the school year: the challenge of dragging cranky kids out of their beds at dawn after two months of mellow summer mornings.
Each year, many of us swear we’ll do it differently. We will listen to the experts. We will adjust our children’s bedtimes back to a school-year schedule as soon as August arrives. We will work with biology, not against it, by dimming the lights and drawing the curtains in the evenings. We will remember the power of a good bedtime routine.
It does sound wonderful.
But each year, many families embrace the spontaneity of summer and the long, light evenings, ditching routines and enjoying late nights with the kids. Or maybe we really do try to get them to bed early, but Little League baseball games run late and vacations to other time zones make it impossible.
Then we try to get our kids up early for the first day of school and their bodies naturally rebel. It’s never easy to be “waking up at the time you’re biologically ready to be asleep,” says Dr. Peter Franzen, child sleep expert and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh’s Sleep Medicine Institute.
Lack of sleep can affect kids’ ability to learn, to remember and to handle emotions, he says.
“We’re seeing an epidemic of sleep deprivation” among adults, Franzen says. “We’re certainly not modeling appropriate behavior for our kids.”
These experts say adults really do need eight hours of sleep per night, though many of us get as little as five or six.
So even if you won’t kick back into an early bedtime routine until the night before school begins this year, make this the year you prioritize sleep for the whole family, says Lorraine Breffni, director of early childhood at Nova Southeastern University’s Mailman Segal Center for Human Development, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.