Help Reset Your Child's Internal Clock before School Starts

boy sleeping next to alarm clock

I have fond memories of my children excitedly preparing for each new school year. With a brand new pair of tennis shoes and backpack, they looked forward to the new school year with both eager anticipation and trepidation.

While buying our children new school supplies may help tip the scale towards eager anticipation, it’s much more important to help children to prepare for their school year by making sure they’re well rested. Parents can help their children get off to a good start by readjusting their sleep schedule before school begins.

The Importance of Sleep

While the first few weeks of school are exciting, they are also stressful as your child adjusts to new experiences, people and classes. Being well rested can help children make the transition, cutting down on some of the stress and ensuring that they are ready to face the challenges, to focus and to learn.

During the long summer break, many children have gotten used to sleeping in simply "because it's vacation." Family trips and summer activities often throw off the schedules of even the most diligent parents. Children may have gotten into the pattern of staying up late and sleeping late. If this problem isn't corrected before school starts, children are likely to struggle as they adjust to an earlier schedule.

boy climbing on top of dad with an alarm clock

Parents can help re-set their children's internal clocks and correct this problem so they're ready for school. I suggest that for a week before school starts, you move up bedtime by 15-30 minutes. But simply having children go to sleep earlier won't solve the problem as long as they are still getting up late. Most importantly, parents need to consistently wake their children up earlier. To motivate your children to get out of bed, it often helps if you create a reason for them to have to get up in the morning. It would be ideal to have them spend time outdoors; the early morning sunshine helps to reset the internal clock. The first week that you wake your children up earlier can cause them to be tired and sleep deprived; however, if you continue to firmly enforce the wake-up time, your child should begin to naturally fall asleep earlier. By beginning this process a week before school starts, children will have the advantage of being well rested and ready to learn—starting with the very first day of school.

girl lsleeping on pillow holding a teddy bear

When children have trouble getting out of bed on their own in the morning, are grouchy, and/or have irritable or moody behavior during the day, it's very likely that they need more sleep. Insufficient sleep affects mood, immunity, and the ability to learn. Ideally, children should consistently go to bed at the same time every night. Even on the weekends, bedtime should not vary by more than one hour a night or a total of two hours for the entire weekend. If it does, you're setting your child up for a kind of jet lag when Monday morning rolls around.

Sleep Prep Tips for the Back-to-School Adjustment

  • Allow time for a leisurely bedtime routine

  • Have a consistent bedtime.

  • Warn your children five to ten minutes before they need to get ready for bed so they can wrap up what they're doing.

  • Have quiet activities before bed. (Limit television, video games and computer time.)

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks in the late afternoon and evening.

  • Teach your children relaxation techniques to help them relax and fall asleep.

About the Author:

Dubbed “The Dream Maker” by People magazine, Patti Teel is a former teacher and the author of The Floppy Sleepy Game Book, which gives parents techniques to help their children relax, deal with stress, or fall asleep. Visit Patti online at to subscribe to her free newsletter.