Back to School, Back to Sleep: Adjusting Your Kids’ School Sleep Schedule


As the sun begins to set on summer vacation, the reality of back to school is beginning to set in. If your child’s sleep schedule has gone into “summer mode,” it’s important to start thinking about “school mode” before the night before the first day back.

Parents are often surprised to know how much sleep their preschool and school-aged children need.

Ages 3-5        10-13 hours in a 24-hour period*

Ages 6-12       9-12 hours

Ages 13-18     8-10 hours

*If your child is still napping, then factor that into their sleep totals for the 24-hour period.

It’s important to keep the above sleep needs in mind when calculating your child’s bedtime.

If your child needs to be up by 6:30 a.m. and needs 10 hours of sleep, have her asleep by 8:30 p.m. Some children have higher sleep requirements, and others have lower sleep requirements. You’ll need to figure out an appropriate bedtime to get the rest she needs to perform at her best during the school day. Sleep should truly be a top priority.

If bedtimes have crept later throughout the summer, followed by later wake-ups, it’s best to start backing up things up about two weeks before you pack those backpacks.

You do not have to adjust bedtime and wake-ups in one fell swoop. Start by making bedtime and wake up 15 minutes earlier every day or even every two days if things aren’t too far off. This will help your child slowly adjust to their new schedule and set them up for more rest by the time they’re headed back.

If your children are finding it difficult to unwind at bedtime, here are four tips to help them begin to relax from their day:

  1. Eliminate any screentime (TV, tablet, smartphone, etc.) from the late afternoon or evening. The blue light that emits from screens can absolutely disrupt circadian rhythms (for adults, too!).
  2. Consider some guided meditations created especially for children at bedtime. You can either read the script yourself, or listen to one.
  3. Some children enjoy adding some gentle yoga practices to their bedtime routines. This is something you can do with your child prior to bedtime to help unwind.
  4. Avoid any excess sugar at dinner. This would include any desserts, chocolate, and fruit juice.

Slow down, unplug, and unwind.

Ha. I know, sounds like a pipe dream. But it will help your kids go to bed easier and will help your life feel less chaotic. Prioritizing your child’s sleep will benefit her in the classroom, on the playing field, and beyond. 

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Hello, I’m Arielle! I am the Founder and Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant at Expect to Sleep Again Sleep Consulting, LLC. After having grown up in the Granite State, I earned my Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Boston University and settled in MA. I became a self-proclaimed “sleep geek” after the birth of my daughter, and have since made it my mission to help families get the rest they need in order to enjoy a happier, healthier life. I offer a variety of services including online sleep courses for parents, in-person workshops, and individualized 1:1 sleep consultations. I live with my five-year-old daughter and longhaired dachshund in Sterling, MA.