How To: A Healthy Back-to-School Routine

By Dr. Molly Casey

Back to School

It’s nearly time to head back to school. For kids in some areas of the country, it’s already here. The transition from summertime fun to school-time routine can be a tough one. There are things to help the kiddos and their bodies transition with a bit more ease; after all, the healthier the body, the easier it’s able to withstand the stresses and strains of switching gears. Two of the most significant support mechanisms when switching gears are sleep and proper nervous system function supported by proper spinal health and movement.

Sleep

We all know switching back to school-year bedtimes can be the hardest battle. Sleep is a weapon and one of the greatest things you can do for your kids and their health is to instill solid, helpful sleep habits. Though not easy, here are some of the simplest ways to create the healthiest transition to school sleep routines.

Ideally, children should be back to their regular bedtime/rise time a minimum of one full week prior to the start of school. If you’re feeling like a rock star, two weeks is incredible. This gives ample time for the child and their body to adjust. Start the process of going to bed earlier by 15- to 20-minute segments for three to four days -- then up it again for another three to four days and repeat. For example, if school bedtime is 8 p.m,. and summer bedtime is 9 p.m., two weeks prior, starting Sunday, get the kids in bed at 8.40 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, up it to 8.20 p.m., and by the following Sunday you’re at 8 p.m.

Tips to help in this process include:

  • Limit electronic screen time one to two hours prior to going to bed. In that time prior to going to bed, have the kids participate in relaxing low-key activities like reading a book or listening to music.
  • Make sure the kids get a good solid period of exercise during the day. Clearly this is not only helpful and healthy for their entire life, it also promotes proper sleep cycles and levels of tiredness by days end.
  • Ensure they drink enough water and stay hydrated throughout the day. Every cell in the body requires water. Supporting your cells well with basic needs like proper amounts of water assist in the body’s ability to do what it needs to do while asleep: rest and repair. So have those kids drink up! The rule of thumb is to drink half the body weight in ounces, so if kids weigh 50 pounds, they should drink 25 ounces of water daily.

Proper Nervous System Communication

Summer is usually a very active time for the kids -- and for many, it’s very active. Switching gears back to higher cognitive activities (thinking more and in a variety of ways, using their brain more) and different functional requirements (sitting a lot more) is stressful to the body and its communication system.

The nervous system is the communication system between the brain and the entire body. Whether you’re wanting your children’s bodies to adjust more easily to the prolonged sitting in class or most efficiently utilizing energy so they can meet the demands of increased focus and concentration, the body must be able to communicate optimally. Proper spinal health and movement facilitates proper nervous system function in the body. Proper nervous system communication will also improve one’s chances of getting better and healthier doses of sleep. Getting your child’s spine checked and adjusted by a chiropractor will improve the spinal health and movement and allow the nervous system to function at that child’s highest possible level.

Start thinking about the start-of-school routine prior to it occurring. It doesn’t mean you need to cause upheaval far before the summer ends, but small tweaks early on help not only in the transition for them (and you) back into the school routine, they also build positive habits for transition throughout their lives.

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