As the school year gets underway, balancing children’s homework and bedtime routine can feel like a tightrope walk for parents. And the struggle is real—on one hand, it’s important for children to get enough sleep to support their cognitive development, memory consolidation, and learning. On the other hand, there’s a lot of homework to be done!
We’re here to guide you through the challenges of balancing homework and bedtime, so your young scholars can thrive in the classroom and under the covers.
The Importance of Sleep for School-Aged Children
Remember when naptime felt like a punishment? Turns out, sleep is the superhero of cognitive development. While our kids snooze, their brains are busy building memory bridges and sharpening their problem-solving skills. Adequate, quality sleep is the secret ingredient to their attention span, emotional resilience, and yes, even those pop quizzes.
Understanding the Challenges of Homework and Sleep
There are several challenges that can make it difficult for children to get enough sleep. First, there’s the nightly battle of sitting down to tackle homework. And then, the dreaded dilemma of: stay up to finish this assignment or prioritize sleep and go to bed? It’s a conundrum every parent faces.
Too Much Homework
Many school-aged children come home with a stack of homework that feels like more than they can complete in one night, which commonly leads to late nights and possibly sleep deprivation.
From TVs to smartphones, computers to tablets, many children spend hours each day using electronic devices. This screen time can stimulate the brain, interfering with their sleep and making it difficult for them to fall asleep.
Kids can experience stressors from a number of sources, including academic pressure, social demands, and even family problems at home. This stress can make it difficult not only to focus on homework but also to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Crafting a Homework Schedule that Respects Sleep Needs
Picture this: a homework schedule that respects both learning and essential snooze time. Dreamy, right? Here are a few things that parents can do to help your children create a homework management schedule that respects their sleep needs:
- Set limits on homework hours. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages 9-13 should ideally get 9-11 hours of sleep per night, but sometimes it can feel like their homework workload can eat into those precious sleep hours. That’s why healthy time management habits are essential. Teaching your child how to prioritize tasks and set achievable goals can significantly impact the number of hours they spend on homework each night. Ultimately, helping them manage their workload effectively not only supports their learning journey but also ensures they have ample time for the quality sleep they need.
- Prioritize tasks. Help your child to prioritize their homework tasks so that they can focus on the most important assignments first and prevent feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
- Take breaks. Encourage your child to take breaks every 20-30 minutes while they’re working on homework. Regular breaks will help them stay focused and avoid getting burned out.
- Set a bedtime schedule and stick to it. Even on weekends, it’s important to stick to a regular bedtime schedule to regulate your child’s body clock and make it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep at night.
- Set a “no screen” rule for one hour before bed. The blue light emitted from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep. Limiting screen time before bed will give your child’s eyes a break from the blue light emitted from screens and help them to wind down after a long day. If your child needs to use a screen before bed, finishing up homework or reading on a tablet, make sure their devices are scheduled to regularly shift into “night mode” a couple hours before bedtime.
Establishing a Consistent Bedtime Routine
A consistent bedtime routine isn’t just a calming ritual; it’s a sleep-inducing magic spell. Winding down with calming activities helps encourage sleep. Here are some healthy sleep habits to add to a nightly routine for a seamless transition to dreamland:
- Reading. Not only can reading help improve your child’s literacy skills, but it is also a great way for them to relax and unwind before bed.
- Taking a bath. A warm bath can help to soothe the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Listening to calming music. Create a relaxing atmosphere and promote sleep with some quiet, calming music.
- Stretching. Gentle stretching can help relax the body and mind, making it easier to fall asleep.
- Meditation. Similar to stretching, meditation can help calm the mind and body and promote relaxation before bed.
Collaborative Communication Between Parents and Children
Striking a balance between homework and bedtime can feel like a science experiment—tinkering to figure out the right ratio between enforcing the rules and going with the flow or prioritizing wellness and completing tasks. But the truth is, there is no magical equation or one-size-fits-all solution to strike the right balance between homework management and bedtime.
In fact, a 2018 Better Sleep Council study found that homework-related stress is a significant concern for high school students, with more than three-fourths (75%) citing it as a source of stress. The study also found that students spending excessive time on homework (39% spending 3+ hours) may experience increased stress without proportional academic benefits, further underscoring the need for a more thoughtful approach to homework and its impact on sleep.
One way to help find the right balance for your kids? Keeping a line of open communication. Talk to your kids about their schoolwork and sleep needs. Our advice?
- Get their insight. Ask them about how much homework they have each night and how long they think it might take them to finish.
- Organize their workload. Get a homework planner to help them to prioritize their tasks and set achievable goals.
- Encourage participation. Involve them in crafting their routines, empowering them to take charge of their education and sleep.
- Work together. If they’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, work together to find solutions.
This isn’t just about bedtime routine; it’s about fostering responsibility and finding balance.
Explore more sleep-related resources, tips, and research at bettersleep.org.