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As summer draws to a close, in a few short days backpacks will be filled, lunches will be packed, and thousands of young students throughout Houston Independent School District will head back to class. Back to school means the little ones need to rise bright and early to make sure they are at their desks for the homeroom bell. Unfortunately, those early risers will go through a bit of an adjustment. During the summer, many of us tend to let regular bedtimes slide for our children.

Reinstating a sleep routine doesn’t have to mean ending up locked in negotiations with your kids for, “just one more hour” of time spent awake. Setting a school year bedtime now can help ensure your little ones are bright-eyed and excited for their first day back at school, not fighting you to stay in bed for five more minutes, which becomes 15 minutes, and inevitably turns the rest of the morning into a race against the clock. Here are three tips for creating a bedtime routine:

1. Leave a gap between time for homework, chores, and bedtime.

Letting the little ones have a break to unwind after a long school day is important, but waiting too long to start homework can mean late, frustrating nights for everyone. Give them a thirty-minute break once they’re home for the day before they get started on homework.

And once you’ve started homework time, keep kids on task by setting up a designated homework space that will help them concentrate and reduce distractions. This space can be a desk of their own away from the television, or the kitchen table. Make homework a shared activity, by doing your own “homework,” whether it be home-related or office tasks you’ve taken home, alongside your child. This way you can lead by example and avoid letting kids become distracted by feeling left out of what everyone else is doing.

Daily chores such as cleaning their room, picking up toys around the house, or doing the dishes should be finished at least an hour before bedtime. This lets them unwind before sleep so they can head to bed without unfinished tasks looming over them.

2. Make the bedroom a technology-free zone.

We may think of teenagers as the ones who are attached to their screens, but between televisions, cell phones, tablets, and computers, elementary school children spend an average of 4.5 hours on their screens per day. Screens give off a blue light which disrupts the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep. This is why people of any age should aim to turn off their screens at least an hour before bed.

Keeping TVs out of bedrooms, and storing tablets, phones, and computers in other rooms can help prevent the temptation of playing games, surfing the web, or watching shows late into the night. Also, setting a firm rule for the whole family to turn off all screens one hour before bed will help everyone avoid the negative effects of the blue light.

3. Have a wind-down activity

No homework, no chores, and no screens an hour before bed doesn’t mean leaving your kids to sit in the dark. Instead, encourage them to use that time before bed to unplug and unwind. For younger children, that might mean the bedtime routine of bathing and putting on pajamas before an older family member reads to them. For older children, setting up their own quiet space to read, draw, or journal can help foster healthy relaxation habits. Making these activities part of your child’s bedtime routine can help them decompress at the end of the day so that they can climb into bed relaxed and ready for sleep.

If the kids are in bed at a reasonable hour every night, but still doze off at their desks every day, there may be a more serious underlying problem. Sleep disorders can affect children’s early development and impact their abilities to learn. Seeking help from a certified sleep specialist is the first step to getting your child back to sleeping soundly at night. Dr. Pasha always focuses on determining the root of a patient’s sleep struggles, before working with them to find the best solution. Don’t let bedtime be a struggle, make sure your child gets the rest they need to do their best, let our ENT specialist help you today.