British Columbia

It's time to get your child on school sleep schedule, says UBC expert

The countdown is on for the first day of school, and a UBC nursing professor wants parents to ensure their child's sleep cycle is on track.

'It's better if you start sooner rather than later,' nursing professor says

A U.B.C. sleep expert says mid-August is the time to start adjusting your child's sleep schedule to prepare for the school year. (Prachaya Roekdeethaweesab/Shutterstock)

The countdown is on for the first day of school in British Columbia, and a UBC nursing professor wants parents to ensure their child's sleep cycle is on track.

"It's better if you start sooner rather than later," said Wendy Hall.

"Whatever went out the window over the summer, you want to try and bring that back again."

Hall said children tend to get less sleep during the summer months because parents don't enforce bedtimes as strictly as they would during the school year. Also, longer daylight hours can mess up a normal school year schedule with children being able to stay out later.

10 minutes earlier

Hall says children's bedtimes should begin shifting back to a schedule about halfway through August. This can be done by sending children to bed 10 minutes earlier than in June, and waking them up 10 minutes earlier as well. Trying to force bedtimes ungracefully can make children resistant to sleeping, she said.

She also admitted there is a difference between bedtime and the time a child actually falls asleep. To deal with this, Hall suggests calming a child down before bed with quiet activities like reading.

"Those routines are so important to get them back into sleep schedules."

Screen time

It's also extremely important to monitor and limit the amount of time a child spends looking at electronic screens, added Hall. 

"Pay attention to screen time. Screens are severely impacting children's sleep," said Hall. "It's not just the screen time right before bed, it's the total amount of screen time during the day."

Hall said new research suggests too much screen time makes it harder for children to wind down at night and affects the quality of sleep they get. Also, parents have to ensure children aren't on their cell phones while in bed.

"Try and see if, as a family, you can start to get some things in place ... Support each other around going to sleep."

With files from The Early Edition and Margaret Gallagher

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