So long to summertime sleep-ins. The new school year is arriving with an early wake-up call for families like Julie Miller’s. She and her husband Geoff have two sons, Jett, 7, and Redding, 5.
“It’s a lot of extra effort when we start the bedtime routine,” she lamented. “That’s a whole wave of energy we need to muster up and so, sometimes we don’t want to do it.”
Nicklaus Children’s Clinical Psychologist Dr. Dana McMakin agrees that it is no easy feat.
“Part of the goal is just to think about it and be playful and thoughtful about it and prioritize it,” she said.
Dr. McMakin also explained why the effort is worth it.
“We know that something about sleep allows the brain to sort of reset in terms of learning,” she said. “Your brain is very busy kind of figuring out what it needs to hold onto and what it can let go of from the prior day.”
Dr. McMakin recommends gradually adjusting bedtimes.
“You don’t want to go too fast, you want to move your schedule by about fifteen minutes every couple of days if possible," she said. "If you need to go a little bit faster than that, you can go to a half-hour, but no more than that or it could potentially backfire.”
And if bedtimes are troublesome, she recommends focusing on wake times.
“You can’t always control how fast you fall asleep, but you can control when you wake up,” she said. “If you keep your wake time consistent and on schedule, and don’t over-nap, then you should build enough sleep drive by night time the next night, that it’ll make it easier to fall asleep.”
That strategy may work well for Julie Miller’s family. “We’re gonna try to get more into a routine for wakeups so we relax a little and have it smoothed out.”
And Dr. McMakin says something else can help get you going in the morning.
“Getting exposure to light within thirty minutes of waking up is a great way to start pushing that biological clock into the shape that you want it,” said Dr. McMakin.