Back to school sleep solutions

 

Back to school sleep solutions

 

The return to school in September 2020 is definitely going to be very different, six months in lockdown and home-schooling at home have turned our routines upside down that’s for sure. 

 

The return to school after the summer holidays in a ‘normal year’ can have implications for your little one’s sleep. It can be an anxious affair for some starting school for the first time and for some starting in a new school year. 

 

The fun of summer and being carefree with more later than normal bedtimes can ordinarily affect our little ones sleep as they return to getting up early for school and the stimulation of a school day can make them incredibly tired. 

 

This year though has been an emotional rollercoaster, parents are exhausted from home-schooling and our routines are a little topsy turvy. Returning to school no matter what your stance on it can be a time filled with emotions and anxiety. However, they will be so pleased to be back with their friends again.

 

Returning to school in September is going to look different in comparison to previous years, with staggered arrival times for year groups, sanitiser stations and class bubbles. Your little one may have some concerns and be quite anxious which can affect their sleep.

 

Home-schooling itself has been a challenge for parents, (me included), for some children they have had more screen time and later bedtimes. Yes, my boys have for sure, please don’t beat yourself up whatever you did with your children during lockdown was the best at the time. It’s been extraordinary times however they have had more of your time too and I am sure they have loved their lockdown adventure at home with you.

 

However, whether your little one is returning to school or you are carrying on home-schooling now is the time to start tweaking those bedtime routines. Enabling them to get that all-important restorative sleep which is needed for all that important learning.

 

Why is sleep important?

 

The two most accepted theories of why we need sleep are:

 

  1. It conserves energy by reducing our metabolic rate
  2. It serves as a period of restoration

 

Infants and young children’s function of sleep is down to

 

  • Physical growth
  • Consolidating new memories

 

Older children and adults

  • Better cognitive function
  • More energy

 

All age groups

  • Improves memory
  • Positive mood
  • Cell growth and repair
  • Energy conservation

 

Children getting that all-important restorative sleep enables them to have improved learning, attention span and the ability to problem-solve. It supports your child’s overall mental, emotional and physical development for the better. Sleep deprivation in children can have a negative impact on their learning and their ability to retain information as well as on the behaviour they display.

 

It is good to have an idea of how much sleep your child needs, remember all children will vary and you know your child best. You may know 9-year-old goes to bed at 9 and gets up at 6 that they are going to be far grumpier than if they went to bed at 8 for example. Other 9-year olds may cope perfectly fine with that routine.

 

For guidance the average hours your child may need are

  • 3-4 years around 11-12 hours
  • 5-8 years around 10-12 hours
  • 9-11 years around 10 hours
  • 11-16 years around 9 hours

 

Once you know how much sleep your child needs you can create a plan to get your child’s sleep back on track ready for the return to school. Now is the time to adjust their sleep so that they will be ready to wake up full of energy and ready to get through the school day with ease.

 

Reintroducing healthy sleep hygiene

 

It is always great to go back to basics and return to those routines that worked well for both you and your child. Good sleep hygiene includes having a great bedtime routine and this will be very different to each family, it may begin with a wind-down time, quality family time with games or puzzles, dimming the lights, bath, stories and into bed.

 

One of the big things that you can begin to do is to stop screen time at least an hour before bed (some children who are highly sensitive may need 2 hours). Screens include televisions, iPad, games consoles and phones. Technology I know has been our saviour during the lockdown and it has enabled children to communicate with their friends however it is a big hindrance when it comes to sleep for everyone, adults included.

 

The blue light it omits can disrupt the production of our sleep hormone melatonin and it messes up our body’s natural internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. The blue light can keep us at high alert and mean that our sleep is delayed and can be detrimental to sleep. Our children are still growing and developing physically and mentally and as I have said sleep is important for returning to school.

 

Now is a great time to set bedtime boundaries and restrict screen time, keep the conversation open with your child and reduce this as school becomes closer.

 

How to reset bedtime

 

Returning those late nights to a time suitable for school for their sleep needs can take time. It can also come along with some bedtime battles from your little one too. However, keep the conversations flowing and start talking now to your child about bedtime boundaries.

 

Often a good place to start when looking at changing things is to work backwards, first take into account at what time your child needs to wake up. Take into account them having a good amount of time to eat breakfast, get dressed and prepare for school. Try looking at a time that won’t mean you are rushing around particularly in the beginning so that they can prepare for school affectively in the morning.

 

So, for instance, if you need a 7 am wake up, work backwards at the amount of sleep needed for sleep. For instance, a 4 yr old who copes well with 11 hours will need a bedtime of asleep by 8 pm. This may involve a bath around 7-7.15, into bed with a story perhaps at 7.30, allowing for lights out with a sleep latency of 15-20 minutes. (the time it takes to go to sleep from lights out)

 

If your little one is going to bed later currently, I suggest you move bedtime in 15-minute blocks adjusting the time every few days. This will mean having a wake up 15 minutes earlier too. Of course, this process can take time but be open and clear with your child to bedtime boundaries can make for a calmer bedtime and more sleep in preparation for school.

 

What if things don’t change

 

Please don’t worry if things don’t change as quickly as you would have liked or perhaps once your child is back at school their sleep is affected more so than just bedtimes. Changing things is a process and very often it will take some consistency, time and patience.

 

Please remember we have all been through a very big change during the lockdown, sleep for everyone has been affected in some form. Returning to the way things were will take time so please don’t be too hard on yourself.

 

For many of us during the lockdown, we had less exposure to light, getting outside was restricted, being able to exercise and fewer interactions with family and friends. Increased worry and anxiety impacted our sleep patterns and our routines changed too.

 

You are doing amazing but if your little one’s sleep is being heavily impacted; I am very much here to support you. Book in your sleep discovery call by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

You may also be interested in next week’s blog titled How to fill up your child’s emotional cup, which will include lots of tips too.

 

Much love 

Claire

 

Sweet Beginnings Babycare

 Claire is based in Maidstone, Kent and her sleep consultancy, baby massage and baby yoga classes offer a nurturing space for mum and baby to relax, recharge and connect. Claire has an extensive background in childhood studies and baby care. 

 

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