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School Break: Sleep Schedule for Kids

Winter vacation is quickly approaching! It’s a great chance to spend lots of time together as a family…maybe even travel somewhere. But what about the inevitable breakdown of your kids’ school bedtime schedule that always comes along with school breaks? What’s an acceptable school break sleep schedule? Is it ok to let your kids stay up an hour, two hours, even three hours past their usual bedtimes, or to just let them set their own schedule?

First, let’s discuss how much sleep your child needs based on how old they are. A 3-6 year old needs 11-13 hours of sleep. Grade school kids (ages 7-12) need 10-11 hours of sleep a night. For teenagers, around 9 hours of sleep is ideal. Even during school breaks your child needs to get these hours of sleep.

As for staying up late, it’s really up to you as a parent if you’d like to allow your child to stay up late during the break. This is one of those decisions that will vary from family to family. The good news is that if you decide to let your child stay up late, there’s are steps you can take to make sure she gets back on track when school starts back up. One thing that’s not advisable, however, is to completely throw any sort of sleep schedule out the window. Your child still needs structure, especially a young one. A teen can be allowed more leeway, but especially a younger teen still needs help with structure. Try giving a bedtime range to your teen but allow her some flexibility as to when exactly within that range she chooses to go to bed.

For one thing, make sure that no matter how late he stays up, the hour(s) before bed are filled with calm activities. Just because he’s allowed to stay up later shouldn’t mean that he’s running wild during this time. Limit screen time for the last hour before bed as well since blue light from screens can throw off your child’s natural circadian rhythm.

One thing to consider when letting your kids stay up late is wake up time. You know your kid best….if she’s allowed to stay up, is she going to sleep in the next morning to compensate? Or is she the type that wakes up at the same time each morning no matter how late she goes to sleep? If she still wakes up at the same time, you’ll be dealing with a cranky kid who hasn’t had enough sleep, not to mention the fact that you’re cutting into your own relaxation time at night (us parents need some time to wind down at night after a long day!)

When it’s time to get back onto a school sleep schedule, start a few days before. Don’t try to suddenly expect your child to fall asleep on time on the night before his first day back at school. The longer you allowed him to stay up during the break, the longer you should take to slowly return to a school sleep schedule. A good rule of thumb is to move bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach his usual bedtime on a school night.

And then there’s New Year’s Eve. Every kid wants to stay up and not miss out on the fun of ringing in the new year! This one is up to you as a parent to decide. One night up late won’t do too much harm for an older child or teen. However, a younger child may not be up to staying up several hours past her bedtime. She may even fall asleep early despite herself! And if you don’t mind doing this, Netflix has been airing an early New Year’s countdown for kids that parents can play whenever they’d like on New Year’s Eve!

So the bottom line is, it’s ok to let your kids veer off schedule somewhat during winter break. However, even though the vacation may seem long (2-3 weeks), it’s not long enough to let the kids get too far off their usual sleep schedule. The school break sleep schedule should be only an hour or two later than their usual bedtime. Remember that whatever you’re letting them do needs to be undone in time for when school is back in session!

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