Summer Nights to School Days: Easing Kids into a New Sleep Schedule

For many families, the summer months mean relaxed sleep schedules. Longer days can lead to later bedtimes and wake-up times. While this can be harmless as long as children get enough sleep, returning to school sleep schedules can be a chore. Fortunately, with a little planning, parents can help kids ease back into their sleep schedules.

Experts all agree that sleep is vital to kids’ healthy development.  Research studies, including one conducted by The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, shows that kids who get enough sleep show improvements in attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, mental health, physical health, and overall quality of life. 

 Sleep Recommendations

The Cleveland Clinic endorses the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommendations that a certain number of hours each age group — from babies to teenagers — should sleep in 24 hours.  


Age range Recommended sleep
Babies (4 to 12 months) 12 to 16 hours, including naps
Toddlers (12 to 24 months) 11 to 14 hours, including naps
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) 10 to 13 hours, may include a nap
School-aged kids (6 to 12 years) 9 to 12 hours
Teenagers (13 to 18 years) 8 to 10 hours

 Summer Month Sleep Problems

Kaiser Permanente pulmonary physician Charles Anderson, MD. explains why summer and more hours of daylight, but when it finally arrives it may cause sleep problems for kids.

“Increased daylight delays melatonin secretion that normally rises at dusk to trigger bedtime sleepiness,” he says.  “This can result in slowing your kids’ sleep-wake clock and therefore delaying bedtimes. Also, without regular school schedules, kids often have no set reason to get up in the morning. This is especially true for teens.”

They provide tips for helping your child manage their sleep schedule during the summer months. They advise that managing sleep during the summer can help to avoid more serious problems when transitioning back to school.

“For some teens, poor sleep habits in the summer can result in Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, a serious problem, by the time school starts again,” Dr. Anderson adds. Teens with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome find it impossible to fall asleep until the early morning hours and nearly impossible to get up in the morning in time for school. If they do manage to get up, they are often severely sleep deprived and their school performance suffers.

Transitioning to School Sleep Schedules

Now that summer break is coming to an end, it’s important that parents start to slowly ease children into their new sleep schedules. Experts agree that a gradual transition is best, starting one or two weeks prior to the start of the school year.

Maggie Moore, certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Moore Sleep advises, “The best way to slowly prepare for when school is back in session is to bring the routine back. Routines are KEY to good sleep.”

The Cleveland Clinic and pediatric sleep specialists Brian Chen, MD. and Vaishal Shah, MD provide the following advice for parents:

1.Don’t make the transition overnight

“If your child’s sleep schedule needs to be shifted, that shift should be slow,” advises Brian Chen, MD.

2. Go 15 minutes at a time

“Adjusting your kids’ wake-up time by two hours could take one to two weeks,” Dr. Shah says, “so it’s not a good idea to wait until the day before school starts to make changes.”
3. Wind down an hour before bedtime 

 “The last one hour before bedtime should be relatively quiet and calming,” Dr. Shah advises. That means no exercise, no caffeine, no TV and no cell phones.

4. Provide optimal sleeping conditions

 “A dark, quiet and somewhat cool room can help kids fall asleep at the right time,” Dr. Chen notes.

5. No sleep aids for kids

“These are very powerful tools that should only be used under the care of a sleep doctor or a physician,” Dr. Chen cautions. “Using them incorrectly can make kids’ sleep issues much more complicated than they have to be.”

6.Take sleep deprivation seriously

“I liken it to cigarette smoking,” Dr. Shah says. “Smoking one cigarette does not kill a person, but long-term smoking significantly affects people’s health. If you don’t get enough sleep for a long enough period of time, it begins to take a toll on your health.”

7.Keep an eye on kids’ wake-up habits


“The best thing you can do to get kids to wake up refreshed and ready to go is to make sure they get a good night’s rest,” Dr. Chen says.

 “If they’re getting the recommended number of hours of sleep but still have difficulty waking up, that could be a sign that there’s something going on with their sleep quality.”


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