1. Calculate how much sleep your child needs
Many well-meaning parents have no idea how much sleep their child needs. Preschoolers need 11 to 12 hours. Five to ten-year-olds need 10 to 11 hours and teenagers do best with 9 to 10 hours.
2. Nudge that sleep time forward
Have your child go to bed and wake up 15 minutes earlier each day at least one to two weeks before school starts. This will help realign their circadian clock to school time.
3. Eliminate caffeine
Stop all late afternoon caffeine, including dark chocolate, at least six hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a major stimulant and inhibits sleep.
4. Eat dinner earlier
During the summertime with longer days and delayed sleep times, we tend to eat later than during the school year. Timing of dinner has a significant effect on our circadian sleep-wake schedule.
5. Establish a bedtime routine
In preschoolers and school age children, this may consist of brushing teeth, taking a bath, and reading a bedtime story. In older children and teens, it may include reading a book or other relaxing activities such as writing, or learning relaxation techniques such as meditation and progressive muscle relaxation.
6. Turn off the blue light
Numerous studies have demonstrated the adverse effects of electronics before bedtime. Eliminate the television from the bedroom. Get the iPads, cell phones, and laptops out of the bedroom. These devices emanate blue light, which shuts down the production of melatonin and inhibits sleep.
7. Stop summertime naps
Many children over the age of six start napping again during the summer. This may be because they are not getting enough sleep. Whatever the cause, if these naps last longer than one hour, they probably will negatively affect your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep.
8. Avoid late night pizza
Since they need to get to bed earlier, avoid foods close to bedtime that adversely influence your child’s sleep. Spicy foods can cause acid reflux and raise body temperatures, both of which inhibit sleep. Cured meats such as salami and pepperoni, and aged cheeses such as parmesan, contain tyramine, which causes the release of the wake-promoting neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
9. Establish the bedroom environment
In addition to removing the electronics, consider the temperature of the bedroom. A drop in temperature is a signal to the brain to enter sleep. Room temperatures of between 62 and 70 degrees seem to be the most conducive to sleep.
10. Set rules and be a model example
A recent survey done by the National Sleep Foundation found that children whose parents set rules as to sleep-wake times and electronic devices in the bedroom, as well as abiding by them, slept longer and better. These children were also more likely to do better in school and far less likely to develop mood and anxiety disorders.