boy and girl reading books on bed. back to school bedtime routines and day routines are important during coronavirus covid-19
Sleep Tips

New Back to School, Old Bedtime Rules

With COVID-19 still a public health threat, there's nothing routine about getting ready for back to school. What your kids' school day will involve will look different depending on where you live.

That might mean children go back to the classroom fulltime, with social distancing and mask policies in place. Some school districts are switching entirely to remote learning, with children taking courses online or connecting with teachers via teleconferencing. The school week may be a hybrid, with some in-classroom days and some days spent learning from home. Or you might decide to go your own route with homeschooling.

Whatever the new normal of education looks like this fall, kids still need healthy daytime and bedtime routines to make sure they function at their best. Along with the stress of navigating a pandemic, each learning model can also impact sleep in different ways. To safeguard their sleep, regardless of their learning model, follow these tips.

Tips to Create a New Bedtime Routine

  • Keep their bedroom for sleeping.

    If possible, choose places other than your child's bedroom for schoolwork. A bedroom shouldn't be associated with stress, which can interfere with sleep. It should be associated with relaxation. This can be especially difficult if your child does remote learning exclusively. Spending most of their time in their bedroom can make it a place they want to avoid.

  • Spend time outdoors.

    With so much of pandemic life spent indoors, kids need a psychological break from being confined. Spending time in nature specifically has been shown to reduce stress. Plan time each day to get outside.

  • Incorporate exercise.

    Our bodies need movement throughout the day to help us sleep. Lack of routine play can contribute to lethargy, making it difficult to get schoolwork done. It also can make it difficult to feel tired enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Unplug to unwind.

    More or exclusive remote learning often means more time spent online. To maintain social distancing, even children who go back to the classroom are spending additional time online through social media platforms. Excessive screen time, especially right before bedtime, has been shown to interrupt sleep.

  • Get the right amount of sleep.

    Each age group needs different amounts of sleep to feel their best, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Kids age 6 to 13 need 9 to 11 hours of sleep. Teens need between 8 to 10 hours. Only 15% of teens report getting at least 8 ½ hours of sleep on school nights, reports NSF.

  • Make sure they don't oversleep.

    When learning is self-directed, it may be tempting for your kids to sleep until noon. Or to sleep more than they need. But this throws off their normal sleep and wake cycle. Instead of waking up refreshed and well-rested, they'll wake up feeling groggy. And that, in turn, won't help them with their schoolwork.

  • Establish a bedtime routine.

    Even though the school day will look different, the same old rules apply to getting a good night's sleep. Maintain a consistent sleep schedule throughout the week and weekend. Kids should go to sleep at the same time every night. And wake up at the same time every day. For younger children, bedtime routines can include kids bedtime stories or kids bedtime music. Encourage teens and tweens to listen to soothing music or practice meditation for better sleep.

There is some good news regarding sleep and remote learning. Depending on what time classes start, your child can sleep in a little longer in the morning. Teens can really benefit. This age group has a biological shift in sleep times that can make it difficult to fall asleep before 11 p.m., according to NSF. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Otherwise, it's hard for teens to get enough sleep.

There are still many uncertainties about this year's back to school. If we can help our kids get more quality sleep, we can better help them through it.

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