By Kristen Fischer, publisher of Macaroni Kid Central Jersey Shore August 28, 2023

The American Association of Pediatrics says kids who get the suggested amount of sleep show improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.

But how much sleep is enough? Elementary school-aged kids should get 9 to 12 hours a day, while teenagers should sleep 8 to 10 hours every day, according to the American Association of Pediatrics.

So how do we get those kids to bed on time? Here are five tips from two pediatric sleep experts to get your kids back on the clock and feeling their best when classes begin:

1. Gradually change sleep habits

Typically, sleep schedules shift later and later during the summer months. That's certainly what's happened in our house. But the sooner you start shifting back to a target school year schedule, the better. Gradual shifts are best. 

“In general, it's best to move the wake time earlier for a couple of days and then move the bedtime earlier by a similar amount,” said Dr. Judith Owens, the director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. 

2. Shut off the screens

Blue light from screens suppresses melatonin, which is essential to fall asleep quickly and have a good quality of rest. It's best not to let kids use screens an hour before bedtime, said Dr. Joseph A. Buckhalt, a professor at Auburn University who has researched children and sleep. I'll let him tell my kids that. 

“The worst culprit for interfering with sleep is the smartphone,” he said. Not only does the blue light emitted by the screen delay natural melatonin release, but often children are using social media that can be arousing at best and distressing at worst.”

3. Open the curtains

This one seems easy enough. Increasing natural light exposure in the morning can help reset a child's natural clock, Owens said. But does this still work if the kid buries his head under his pillow to hide from the sun?

4. Don't slip up on the weekends

Buckhalt advises that it's best for your kids that they adhere to the “new” schedule on both weekdays and weekends. 

5. Skip supplements

“Accommodating sleep schedules at the start of school is not, in my opinion, an appropriate indication for melatonin,” Owens said. This is because the change in sleep is not related to a disorder, she noted. Talk over melatonin use with your pediatrician before using.

I'm planning on using these tips to turn my kids' groans into snores -- and I don't even need to sleep on it.