How to help your child keep a healthy sleep schedule over school breaks

Any break from school is time reserved for rest and recuperation from daily school routines. However, abrupt changes in sleep habits can leave both you and your child stressed instead of refreshed, and sleep deprivation can affect your child’s school performance. For extended breaks, parents should pay careful attention to their children’s sleep patterns and try to keep them on a reasonable schedule.

Know how much sleep is right for your child

Every child requires different amounts of sleep. The requirement for sleep varies by age, with a younger child needing more sleep as compared to an older one.

For school-age children, average sleep requirement is 9-10 hours.

Learn more about child sleep requirements, and be sure to consult with your child’s pediatrician.

Plan a sleep schedule

It is inevitable that your child’s sleep schedule will fluctuate during breaks, and it’s important to plan a sleep schedule so that the first week back-to-school is a breeze.

During long breaks from school (i.e. summer break and winter break), parents should start preparing their child’s sleep schedule a week in advance. If your child has to be up at 7:00 a.m. for school, try waking them up at around 8:00 a.m. the week prior so that their first day back to school won’t be a shock to their bodies.

During short breaks from school (i.e. spring break or extended weekends) parents should avoid letting their child have drastic sleep changes. Active daytime play may cause an urge to sleep longer, but be sure to balance late nights with appropriate wake-up times in the morning and vice versa.

If sleep schedules have been completely altered or disregarded, try getting your child’s body prepared for the first day back to school at least a day or two ahead of time.

Adjust daily habits and evening activity

To ensure that children will get enough sleep throughout the night, parents can adjust daytime and bedtime activities.

“Explore."

In the “practice” days before school, start excluding or limiting caffeinated products. Treats such as soda, chocolate, tea and coffee should be as limited as possible. Also, be sure to incorporate physical exercise into your child’s schedule to burn daily stored energy.

However, it is important to keep teens from exercising right before bedtime. Other habits that are discouraged are naps during the day, using sleep-aids and the use of high stimulation activities such as video games or cell phones before bed.

Lastly, don’t try to force your child to lay down in bed when they are not particularly tired. Doing this may cause them to associate the bed and bedroom with staying awake, which can negatively impact their sleep habits in the long term. The best thing to do is encourage them to get out of bed to read a book or listen to music until they feel tired.

Getting a break from school can be relaxing and restful for you and your child. Don’t let changing sleep schedules ruin the fun!

About the author

Malvika Sagar, MD
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Dr. Malvika Sagar, MD, is a pediatric pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s Medical Center. She is also the medical director of the pediatric sleep lab. She completed her pediatric pulmonary and sleep medicine training at Texas Children’s Hospital after studying at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

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How to help your child keep a healthy sleep schedule over school breaks