Getting enough sleep is important for classroom success as well as physical and emotional development.
Most elementary school children need 10-11 hours of sleep per night, says Susan Mills-Gray, University of Missouri Extension health and nutrition education specialist.
Parents should establish a regular bedtime routine and consistent wake-up time, Mills-Gray says.
“Your child needs to go to bed at the same time each evening and get up at the same time each morning,” she says. “That’s one of the best things you can do for your children. They really respond best to a routine.”
Mills-Gray suggests that about an hour before bedtime parents begin slowing down the evening by stopping rough play, running and other high-energy activities. Turning off televisions, computers and iPads also helps their brains settle down.
“Quieting both physical and mental activity is needed to prepare for sleep,” Mills-Gray says. “That would be a good time to have them start brushing their teeth, putting on pajamas, maybe some quiet reading time and then lights out.”
Sleep, or lack of it, can have a big effect on mood and behavior, she notes. “When children are tired. they become much more stubborn, irritable and cranky,” she says. “Also, children who don’t get enough sleep may have more behavior problems at school.”
Mills-Gray recommends shifting to the new routine a week or two before the start of school, letting the child adjust to the sleep schedule by the beginning of school.
School-age children commonly resist going to bed when they’re supposed to, which can be frustrating, but Mills-Gray says parents need to establish standards and limits.
“Just being very clear as a parent about what bedtime is, when the lights are going out and what your expectations are and sticking to those will make things go much smoother,” she says. “They have to know that you mean what you say.”