Helping your children embrace their school sleep schedule

Q: How can I get my kids to better embrace their fall sleep schedules? 

A: Sleep issues are common for infants, children and teenagers. It’s rare for families not to have to deal with this issue after summer breaks, especially. The best advice is patience and age-appropriate expectations. 

One of the biggest obstacles to a good sleeping schedule is a lot of variation in the time children go to bed, especially for school-aged children. 

If they really need to go to bed at 9 p.m. on weeknights, but then stay up to 11 p.m. on weekends, they’ll likely have problems getting to bed on Sunday and Monday nights. 

If your child has problems with this variation in her schedule, waking her up at about the same time throughout the week, including weekends, can be helpful.

If your 3- or 4-year-old takes a long nap in the late afternoon, he’ll likely have problems falling asleep at his normal time. You could allow him to sleep only 20 to 30 minutes — if he’s truly tired — instead of letting him take a full nap. He may be hard to wake up from such a shortened nap, but the less desirable alternative could be your child staying awake until 11 p.m.

Finally, each evening, be sure to create a 20- to 30-minute transition time before your child’s ideal bedtime. Going straight from an action-packed movie or intense video game can make immediately falling asleep challenging. Try some quiet reading time, softly recall the best parts of the day or quietly tell family stories to wind your child down each night.