How to Shift Your Child's Bedtime Routine for School

How to Shift Your Child’s Bedtime Routine for School

26 July 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 2 mins

It’s that time of year to start thinking about shifting your child’s bedtime routine to prepare for school. ​​​​Most parents know the importance of a good bedtime routine for their children. A regular bedtime routine can help children wind down at the end of the day and prepare for a good night’s sleep. But what happens when your child’s bedtime routine needs to change for school? If your child is starting school, returning from vacation, or moving to a new school, you may need to shift their bedtime routine to accommodate their new schedule. 

Here are a few tips to help shift your child’s bedtime for back to school: 

Start gradually shifting your child’s bedtime a few weeks before school starts

This will help them get used to the new bedtime and make the transition smoother. Let them know about the upcoming change and also the reason for doing so. We sometimes tell our children what to do without providing a reason. Although we are busy, and this is sometimes necessary, what I have found with my partner’s children is that when they understand and are part of the process, it becomes a little easier for all. 

If your child is used to going to bed later, start shifting their bedtime earlier a little bit each night

For example, if they usually go to bed at 9:00 p.m., remind them to go to bed at 8:45 p.m. a few nights before school starts. Then, move their bedtime to 8:30 p.m. the week before school starts.

Make sure your child has a relaxing bedtime routine that includes winding down for 30 minutes before sleep

This may consist of reading a book, taking a bath, or listening to calm music. Moshi has some excellent sleep meditations and stories that have subtly helped our family and home consistently and successfully. Click here to listen to Peekaboo’s Relaxing Roots. They even have a plethora of bedtime stories and meditations centered on the theme of school!

Avoid screens in the bedroom an hour before bedtime

This includes televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones. Although we use Moshi on a device, we place this without reach from the children to decrease the chances of them getting distracted by visuals or other apps. Connecting the app to a Bluetooth speaker or using Alexa are also great options.

Make sure your child’s bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool

A dark room will help signal to your child’s brain that it is time to sleep. Akacem et al. (2016) explain the importance of light/dark exposure for our body’s melatonin production. 

Encourage your child to use the bathroom before bedtime to avoid having to wake up in the middle of the night to go

Should they wake up for a toilet break, teaching them to use as little light as possible is important. We have a very dim light in the bathroom throughout the night to decrease the chances of my partner’s children waking up and disturbing their sleep when going to the toilet.

If your child is having trouble sleeping, don’t hesitate to contact their doctor for help

Making a few simple changes to your child’s bedtime routine can significantly affect their sleep and ability to focus at school. 

With some planning and preparation, you can help your child make a smooth transition to their new school schedule.

Akacem LD, Wright KP Jr, LeBourgeois MK. Bedtime and evening light exposure influence circadian timing in preschool-age children: A field study. Neurobiol Sleep Circadian Rhythms. 2016 Nov;1(2):27-31. DOI: 10.1016/j.nbscr.2016.11.002. Epub 2016 Nov 30. PMID: 28042611; PMCID: PMC5193478.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental