This year’s back to school season is certainly looking a lot different. With distance learning becoming our new reality, how can parents help their kids stay healthy and their Zzzs in check? Our Chief Scientific Officer Roy Raymann, PhD, has the answers you’re looking for.
What can parents do to help their children get back on a consistent schedule this fall, especially bearing in mind a continued school-from-home program amid COVID-19?
One should still try to maintain a regular daily routine, with fixed wake times, meal times, activity times, learning times, breaks, leisure time, and bedtimes, preferably 7 days a week. We have seen in our SleepScore data that our users’ weekday sleep schedules were more similar to their weekend sleep schedule during shelter in place. That kind of consistency is actually better for your sleep and overall well-being.
Here are a few other tips you can consider:
- Make sure to keep some exercise or physical activity in your daily schedule. Working from behind a screen can make you stationary for too long. Plan for these activity breaks.
- Make sure you get outside for some outdoor light during the day.
- The school day at home does not necessarily cover the full 8 hours of a school day. Remote school days should be shorter since the pace of the learning is more condensed.
- Try to avoid those tablets and screens after sunset. If screentime is still needed in the evening, try using a blue light filter on your devices, or check out some of our other blue light blocking products. The blue light from these screens can impact your kid’s sleep, especially for teens.
- With the extra time that is left in a day, try to learn a skill you love and want to master but never had the time to work on. It is fun, diverting, and makes you more sleepy at the end of the day.
- Make sure to start relaxing and winding down 1 hour before bedtime. This can include low impact activities like reading, listening to podcasts, or just taking some time to breathe deeply and relax.
Are there any tips you can give directly to parents to help them achieve better sleep, too?
What works for children can also work for the parents. Regular routines are key, and with less commuting and likely less busy schedules in the evening, there is more room to adapt to a healthier paced lifestyle. Schedule the time at home in such a way that most of the activities overlap with your child’s activities (work/breaks/activities/lunch etc). And when bedtime comes closer, avoid screens and try to relax and wind down.
While it’s likely the anxiety related to the progress of the pandemic remains, be modest with alcoholic beverages at night. Note that having at least seven hours of sleep each night is essential to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
How can families keep a consistent daily and nightly rhythm amidst continued variation from the previous ‘normal’ schedules?
The key is to adopt and stick to those new schedules as soon as possible. Some tips are shared above. But once you start with a new routine and time easily allows for that routine, it will become easier to establish. Once you figure out what works best for your family, you might even start wondering if you prefer this new way of life. You may even eventually feel reluctant to go back to the old way of life pre-COVID. For instance, a top chef from Carlsbad, CA who was on his way to getting his first Michelin star stepped down from his job, as the time at home during the pandemic triggered him to re-evaluate his priorities in life.
Are there any benefits to remote learning for kids?
Remote learning allows for later school times. There is no need to wake up early to get on time in your classroom. These later school times fit a child’s delayed circadian rhythm better. And from existing research, we know that starting the day later for teens has been linked to better school performance and overall health. With online classes, they’ll likely be better able to adopt to a learning schedule that fits their sleep needs best.