The start of the school year brings excitement and, if we’re honest, weariness. “I’m at my breaking point with these back-to-school activities,” a mom of five recently commented. When we look to nighttime to provide rest from back-to-school weariness, we can encounter more challenges.
How’s bedtime going at your house? Has the adjustment to school sleep schedules gone smoothly or are you in the midst of struggle? If so, you’re not alone. We’re a sleep deprived culture, with the average American adult getting only 6.8 hours of sleep per night. And well-meaning hard-working parents who let their kids stay up late in hopes of spending time together after long work days. Or kids may simply be too busy to get to bed before sundown.
But many children need much more sleep than they’re getting. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends up to 13 hours of sleep per day for preschoolers, up to 12 hours per night for elementary students, and up to 10 hours for teens. And proper quantity and quality of sleep is important for us all if we’re to have ready minds for the joys and challenges of each day.
Lack of sleep for children can lead to attention and behavior problems in school, poor academic performance, and a host of emotional fallout. Kids who don’t sleep enough have more trouble regulating their emotions and making friends. Physical symptoms correlate too—sleep-deprived kids are more likely to experience obesity and lowered immunity to the germs being shared at school during the day.
And sleepy adults suffer the same social and work productivity issues, but they also pose a real safety threat—the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving tragically causes thousands of accidents each year.
Of course, getting enough sleep is easier said than done. Early morning school start times (despite evidence that early starts disrupt biological sleep patterns and reduce academic performance) mean that kids have to get to bed early in the evening in order to rack up their recommended sleep hours. And as difficult as that early bedtime seems to enact, it holds potential for meaningful connections and special rituals with our children.
Bedtime rituals evolve with age of course, but consider a few of the following for wind down moments with your kids:
- Read a picture book or an ongoing chapter book together
- Give back or foot rubs
- Sing lullabies
- Share your highs and lows from the day
- Set goals for the next day
- Pray or meditate together
- Gently stretch and relax
- Breathe deeply or do breathing exercises
- Listen to a favorite mellow playlist
- Listen to an audiobook together
- Stargaze out the window or from a balcony
- Open the window and listen to nature sounds
- Light electric candles or nightlights
- Make up a story or do a Mad Lib together
- Drop soothing essential oils on a dream pillow
- Turn on a white noise machine
I definitely plan to ask my children if they would like to add any of these rituals to their bedtime routine. We can all use more joy and less stress around bedtime, can’t we?
And because I want to support you toward that bedtime calm, I’m developing a special bedtime connection group. It will be a space for us to gather with our children and share our highs and lows, grateful and challenging moments from the day, as well as wind down reflections on doing good as we grow. Be looking for additional information to join this special group in coming weeks.
Until then, let’s remember that we’re all under the same moon at night, and we can work together to think through sweet bedtime rituals to nurture us all. That includes you too! What can you incorporate into your own bedtime routine that might help you get more rest? And what bedtime strategy helps your kids wind down? Comment below as we problem-solve sleep strategies together.
I’ll leave you with these lovely lines poet Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about the lure of playing in moonlight. “But all of the things that belong to the day; Cuddle to sleep to be out of her way; And flowers and children close their eyes; Till up in the morning the sun shall arise.”