Autism Resources

5 Tips for Shifting Your Child to a School Sleep Schedule

BlueSprig August 11, 2023

Helping your child transition to a school sleep schedule can be a rewarding and empowering experience for parents of children on the autism spectrum. While it may initially seem challenging to adjust to the structured routine of the school year, especially after the more relaxed summer months, there are effective strategies that can make this process smoother. By implementing these 5 tips, parents can ensure their child is energized, refreshed, and fully prepared to embrace each school day with enthusiasm.

1) Create a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

A consistent sleep schedule in a child’s routine is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, having a predictable routine can bring about positive effects by reducing anxiety and providing a comforting sense of stability. Secondly, a lack of sleep can exacerbate behavioral challenges and difficulties with attention and focus. It is recommended for children to aim for 8-12 hours of sleep each night. Ensuring a regular sleep schedule increases the likelihood of children being well-rested, which can positively impact their overall mood, behavior, and cognitive abilities.

2) Establish a Bedtime Routine 

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is essential for children. Following a predictable sequence of activities each night can help your child wind down and prepare for sleep. Begin by choosing calming activities, such as reading a book or a warm bath, to signal to your child that it’s time to relax.

3) Gradually Adjust Bedtime and Wake-Up Time 

As you work to transition your child to a school sleep schedule, it’s important to do so gradually. Abruptly changing their bedtime and wake-up time can cause stress and resistance. Instead, make minor adjustments to their schedule each day, slowly shifting their bedtime and wake-up time closer to their school schedule. This will allow their body to adjust and make the transition smoother.

4) Create a Calming Sleep Environment 

Creating a calming sleep environment is crucial for children to promote relaxation and restful sleep. Start by ensuring the bedroom is free from distractions, such as loud noises or bright lights. Use blackout curtains or a white noise machine to block out disruptive stimuli. Additionally, provide your child with a comfortable, cozy bed using soft blankets and pillows. Incorporating soothing elements like a nightlight or a weighted blanket (if appropriate for their age) can also help create a serene atmosphere.

5) Implement Visual Aids and Rewards System 

Implementing visual aids and a rewards system can be beneficial when transitioning your child to a school sleep schedule. Visual aids, such as a visual schedule or a picture chart, can provide a clear and understandable visual representation of the bedtime routine. This can help your child understand and anticipate each step in the process. Additionally, a rewards system can motivate and positively reinforce bedtime routines and adherence to the sleep schedule. You can create a sticker chart or a token system where your child earns rewards for following the routine and going to bed on time. This can help make the transition more enjoyable and rewarding for your child, ultimately leading to a smoother adjustment to the school sleep schedule.

How BlueSprig Can Help 

At BlueSprig, our team of dedicated BCBAs understand the importance of sleep for children with autism and can provide personalized strategies through our family guidance program to help establish and maintain a consistent sleep routine for your child. Our supportive staff is often available to provide ABA services any time of day, even on the weekend, to accommodate the schedules of our families. We also offer a variety of settings to receive individualized support based on the specific needs of each child in-home, center, community, school, and virtually. To learn more about how BlueSprig can support your family, visit our services page.