'Tis the season...
School has officially begun for your child.
And here is my #1 tip for your child to have their best day at school:
Get plenty of sleep!
Study after study has been done linking a good night's sleep to better test scores and problem solving abilities. Why? Sleep is a vital process not only for restoring and growing the brain, but in the last stages of sleep, your brain is organizing itself -- it's literally keeping the important information, and getting rid of the "junk". The brain is precious real estate!
In many studies done, there is a significant difference in performance when study participants got a full night's rest, compared to the sleep deprived people. This information is not only important for school age children, but working adults! Billions of dollars are lost every year due to people's poor sleep habits.
In addition to great performance in the classroom, children who sleep enough have a much lower risk of being overweight, developing Type II diabetes, and are healthier and happier, overall.
So, how do you start this school year off right?
1) Know how many hours of sleep your child needs: I recommend to parents that they try and get their children sleeping up to 12 hours total at least until 6 years of age. Your child will need at least 10 hours of sleep until they reach their teenage years. Even at that point, it is recommended that high school students get at least 8 hours of sleep.
2) Set up a consistent, non-neogtiable bed time: Now that you know how much sleep your child needs, create a bed time that allows for the hours of zzz's they need. If your child has difficulty falling asleep, this bedtime may need to be followed for a few weekends as well so that their body gets habituated to this new "shut down" time.
3) Avoid the 3 S's at least 1-2 hours before sleep: screens, sugar, and excess salt (sodium)! Blue light emission from a tablet device suppresses the production of melatonin, a key hormone that your body produces to get to sleep easier. Any kind of sugary products before sleep can make it more difficult for your child to settle down, so avoid candy, sodas, chocolate, etc. and opt for healthier options towards the afternoon. For some children, a diet high in sodium can cause water retention and make for multiple trips to the bathroom at night.
4) Try some physical activity to blow off a bit of steam: Your child, depending on their age, has spent basically the whole day at their desk. For children that are high-energy, this can be tough. If your child is not involved with after-school sports or activities, try and get in at least 20' of playtime after school. This will allow their bodies to burn enough energy to fall asleep more easily. But, make sure that this is done a good amount of time before bed.
5) Avoid stress (another S) and create a relaxing bedtime routine: some school-aged children have difficulty falling asleep because they worry about what's happening the next day, what assignment is due, etc. One great way to get out of "school mode" and get ready for sleep is to have a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine. Some activities include reading from a book for enjoyment (not a school book), some pre-bedtime yoga, and even using essential oils like lavender. The bedtime routine should be the same every night -- this will allow your child to know exactly what's happening next and get their bodies ready to wind down.
If a school assignment is forgotten, or if there's a big presentation in class the next day have your child write a reminder list for the next morning -- there's nothing can be done once you're in bed, so there's no need to worry about it. It can wait until tomorrow morning. This is something I do with my work every night before I go to sleep. It helps put my mind at ease for the next day, knowing exactly what is going to happen and what I need to do.
6) Set an example for your child to follow: one of the best ways to instill change and get your child used to the new routine is to set an example for them. It cannot feel like these are their rules exclusively. That means, if you're trying to avoid screens before bed, or enforce a bedtime parents need to lead the charge. If there are older siblings, get them involved as well. Once your child sees that everyone else is doing it and it is a team effort, it will go much more smoothly. And, that means that you might be getting a few extra zzz's too!