Summer is coming to a close and back-to-school time is just around the corner.  As you prepare your little scholar for the upcoming year you will load up her backpack with all the essentials:  pencils, crayons and a new pair of indoor shoes.  One of the tools that your child needs in order to maximize her learning is something that is often overlooked.  As you check off the items on the back to school list, don’t forget about your child’s sleep.

Sleep is critical to your child’s learning.  It’s during REM sleep that our children are able to solidify the learning of the previous day.  Short-changing your child’s sleep affects memory consolidation, which makes learning new things more difficult.  On top of that, children who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be inattentive and forgetful.

Your child’s behaviour can also be affected by too few hours of zzz’s.  A recent study showed that people who were lacking in sleep had emotional brain functioning that was more reactive.  The sleep deprived subjects responded in a reactive way to emotional experiences rather than being able to respond in a more controlled, appropriate way.  According to these findings, children who are not getting enough sleep are more likely to have difficulty dealing with challenging social situations than their well-rested peers.

So how do you ensure your little student is well rested and ready to start fresh in the fall?  Follow these tips from SleepWell Baby on how sleep+school=success.

  • Establish a bedtime in the 7pm-8pm range.  Each child is different, but most school aged children still need between 11-12 hours of sleep at night. Many families find their children undergo a schedule shift during the summer months, staying up later at night and sleeping longer in the morning.  Now that back-to-school is just around the corner, it’s time to make the shift back.
  • Move your child’s bedtime earlier by 15 minutes a night, every few days, until you reach the range of 7-8pm.  Most kids are a little anxious at the start of a new school year.  By making the change over the course of a week or two your child will avoid a late night before the first day of school, which will make that first day a little bit easier.
  • Don’t be afraid to try an early bedtime.  Starting at a new school or daycare can be stressful for our children and stress and anxiety are emotionally exhausting.  Help your child recharge for the next day by offering an earlier than usual bedtime on the days you can tell she is drained.
  • Kids shouldn’t need an alarm clock.  Children who are well rested have a natural biological wake time and rise at that time each day.  You will know your child is not getting enough sleep if you need to drag her out of bed in the morning.
  • Have a family meeting.  As kids get back into the routine of school, why not also get into the routine of healthy sleep?  Discuss the sleep rules in your home, set up a bedtime routine, use a sticker chart or design your own poster to keep the routine on track.
  • Ready the room for sleep.  It’s important that your child’s room is as dark and quiet as possible.  Some children are particularly sensitive to any light coming in their room as light inhibits the body’s production of melatonin.

If you’ve tried our tips for back-to-school success and your little student is still struggling to solve the sleep equation, we’re here to help.  Our Certified Child Sleep Consultants work with children from 4 months to 8 years old.   We can help you get your child ready to head back to school with all the tools she needs to be successful this year, starting with sleep.


Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby.  She works with families to help them get the sleep they need.  Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations.  She can be contacted at alysa@sleepwellbaby.ca.


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