As the previous section discussed, it’s important to get your child on a consistent bedtime schedule. Here are some guidelines for adjusting and maintaining a regular sleep schedule with your kids.
- Keep to a consistent routine
Keeping your tot up a bit later on Fridays and Saturdays in the hopes that she’ll sleep in later (thus allowing you to do the same) can interrupt your child’s sleep cycle and make her wake up even earlier. And allowing older kids to stay up a lot later and sleep in on the weekends can disrupt their rhythm, too.
Maintaining one sleep-wake cycle on weekdays and another one on weekends is asking for trouble. That’s not to say you have to totally eliminate the luxury of sleeping in on the weekends, but you should try to keep it within an hour or so of your typical sleep routines. If your child normally wakes up at 7:30, but sleeps to 8:30 on Saturday and Sunday, that’s usually not a problem. If they normally wake at 7:00 but sleep until 11:00 on the weekends, that’s likely to throw their normal sleep times out of whack. Teens, especially, have a tendency to deprive themselves of sleep during the week and then crash on the weekends.
- Use morning light to get a child’s sleep cycle back on schedule
As soon as your child wakes up, open the shades and take them outside for a walk. Or perhaps make a trip to the park first thing in the morning. Exposing your child to natural light sets your child’s circadium rhythm, helping them get naturally sleepy when their bedtime arrives. This is an especially useful trick when it comes to getting a child back into a school-time schedule after their summer break. About two weeks before the start of the school year, gradually start moving back your child’s wake times a little closer to what they will be, and use this trick each morning to help reset their circadium rhythm.
- Wage your battles in the A.M.
If you want your child to start going to sleep earlier, rather than trying to make all the adjustments at night and fighting your battles then, just start waking them up earlier in the morning. This should help their sleep routine slide back in the evenings without as much fuss. This may not work for teens, but it usually does for younger children.
- Cut back on caffeine
This may seem obvious, but many parents don’t realize just how much caffeine their child is consuming. For example, when a child drinks a can of cola, the caffeine intake is comparable to a what 4 cups of coffee would be for an adult. (Jacobs, 1998, p. 117)