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  • Jessica Berk

#1 Back to School Sleep Tip for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Going back to school can be tough on kids after a summer break. Whether you have a child in preschool or elementary school – any change in their schedule requires some getting used to.

Honestly, getting back in the groove of waking up early to get my kids out the door doesn’t make me very happy either! But, it’s right around the corner, mama!

Early school start times and bus pick ups mean that everyone has to get up and out earlier than they may have been used to this summer. So, I wanted to share this tip now to give you time to plan ahead.

#1 Back To School Sleep Tip: Go To Bed Early

If your child is between 2 and 6 years old, their growing body and mind needs LOTS of sleep.

10 to 12 hours of solid sleep each and every night to be exact.

Science has shown time and time again that insufficient sleep negatively effects children’s cognitive development, attention spans, behavior and overall health, as well as having negative impacts on parental and family functioning.

While your child sleeps, their body releases growth hormones for healthy growth and development. And sleep is especially important during the school year because when we sleep our brain solidifies the new skills we learned that day and commits new learning to memory.


Your preschooler will be getting lots of stimulation during the day at school. If their school day ends midday, make sure to get them home and put them down for their nap before 1:30. This nap serves a biological purpose to help with brain development, learning and physical restoration and it’s important that it’s timed correctly. This afternoon nap should continue until the 3rd or 4th birthday - or maybe later if you’re lucky!

For bedtime, get your preschooler down before 7:30pm. If bedtime is later right now, move it back in :15-minute increments every couple days until you find the sweet spot when they fall asleep easily before 8:00pm.

Elementary School Kids

Summer gave you a chance to see how much sleep your child really needs each night by allowing them to wake naturally in the morning. Calculate how much sleep your child will be losing each school night if they will be waking up earlier. That’s how much earlier you need to be putting them to bed.

If your child slept from 8:00pm to 7:00am in the summer but has to wake up at 6:30am during the school year, their bedtime needs to be moved back 30 minutes to 7:30pm to make up for this lost sleep. They may not fall asleep right away for the first few nights but that’s why I want you to start early and stay consistent. They will get used to their new schedule but it may take a few days.

Young elementary kids should be asleep before 8:00pm. Older elementary kids may be able to tolerate a later bedtime around 8:30 or 8:45 but I recommend ending the day after 8:00pm with quiet time like reading, not screen time or stimulating play like wrestling with Dad.

Sleep Can Keep You Healthy!

A study out of Carnegie Mellon University showed that insufficient sleep is associated with a greater likelihood of catching a cold. The study was done on adults, not kids, but it empirically showed that Adults who slept less than 6 hours a night consistently were 4X MORE likely to catch the common cold. 4 TIMES! The likelihood increased the less sleep they got.

In this era of COVID-19 with most kids heading back to school in-person, we should be doing everything in our power to beef up our kids’ immune systems. And sufficient sleep looks to be a key factor.

These tweaks to their sleep schedules in advance of the school year starting can help avoid sleep deprivation and meltdowns.

Well-rested kids are happier, more focused and less irritable.

And who doesn’t want that?

Best wishes for a great school year!

If you need help establishing great sleep habits that become your child’s “new normal” in time for school, learn more about my proven 4-part REST Method™ by reserving your spot in an upcoming free Toddler Sleep Masterclass. >>CLICK HERE<<



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