Back to School! Sleep success for kids
Going back to school (and work!) means it’s time to return to your usual home routines, but it’s hard to adapt to the sudden change after keeping relaxed summer hours. Here, our resident sleep and wellbeing expert, Natalie Pennicotte-Collier, offers her techniques and advice to ensure you and your family get a head start!
Natalie comments: “Getting your children back on a steady sleep schedule is one of the most important preparations you can make for going back to school. Your children don't need sleep deprivation to complicate their lives and being pro-active will help make this transition easier and help you to win the battle of getting your children to bed on time for school.
“Lack of sleep can impact a child’s health and development in significant ways, from their ability to fight common illness, to hyperactivity, to health issues as they grow into adults.
“Often Children & Tweens have very mixed emotions when going back to school.It’s exciting to see friends again and to face new challenges, but it can be hard for that excitement to compete with pace .
Did you know that sleep is also critical to help children to achieve success in school?
“There are multiple studies that tell us that sleep is essential for learning. Sleep helps children to concentrate better in school and helps them to retain information better too. Therefore, better sleep could mean better grades and greater emotional wellbeing for your children. In fact, good sleep helps children with their decision-making, their ability to plan, and helps them to think critically as well.
“While early mornings are not often problematic for younger kids, tweens and teens often struggle to get up in the morning. Research has shown that when young people mature into teenagers, their biological clocks shift; they typically become sleepy later and need to sleep later in the morning to get the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
“In order to be mindful of this and help you and your children go back to school and work brighter, I’d encourage a family ‘Sleep Challenge’ to sleep better – with less tech and more rest for all.”
Your Family Commitment in Sleep!
“It’s never too early to teach children about the importance of sleep. Routine and consistency are key. A regular bedtime strengthens circadian rhythms and helps ensure adequate time for sleep. Children and ‘Tweens’ will learn what to expect and bedtime will become a non-negotiable part of the day.
“Over the years I’ve worked with many families who are struggling with sleep problems. As a result, I’ve developed what I call ‘sleep strong’ solutions which parents and kids can do to help them sleep well and prioritise sleep and recovery.
"If parents and teens know what good sleep entails and the benefits of making and sticking to a plan that supports good sleep, then they might re-examine their choices about what truly are their ‘essential’ activities.
"The earlier parents can start helping their children with good sleep habits, the easier it will be to sustain them through the teen years."
Sleep Challenge - my proven sleep solutions for all the family
1. Time to get ahead
“Get your children back into a sleep schedule before school starts – try doing this at least a week before the end of the holidays to ease everyone back in to normal life. This will help them get into a routine and won’t make waking up for that first day of school a misery.”
2. Introduce a gradual, faded bedtime routine
“Make sure you fade the ‘time to go to bed’ by encouraging an earlier bedtime in 20 minute blocks each night in the run up to the first day of school.
“Whilst there’s no hard and fast rule to the amount of sleep your youngsters should be getting (as it’s very much down to the individual), it’s generally thought children from about the age of 3 to 6 should get about 10 – 12 hours a night if they can. If you have a child between 7 and 10 then you should be considering about 10-11 hours a night, whilst teenagers need about 8-9 hours of sleep. If you have children of different ages, you’ll need to factor this in to your bedtime routines and change the times accordingly.
“Try implementing this phased ‘time to go to bed’ approach in the week before school for maximum impact. I’ve found that this is a reliable intervention measure to help parents with children who struggle to fall asleep and get back into a routine.”
“A ‘bedtime routine’ serves as a crucial step to achieve a healthy sleep and mental wellbeing for young minds.
“Keeping the routine the same every day is really important, in fact, according to research, a robust routine is the most important predictor of sleep for children. However, modern families are often so busy that important routines can easily get overlooked.
“Children thrive on predictable and structured routines that help them to feel safe and secure. Familiar routines provide the security of knowing what to expect and in turn this can also help them to fall asleep on their own as their body clocks start to get used to familiar time patterns.
“A great routine would involve a bath in the evening to help relax your child, reading a book together and tucking up in bed with an ‘end of day chat’. Ideally follow this with the use of ‘healthy’ electronics in the bedroom. Whilst research has shown that mobile phones, TVs and computers can make it harder to fall asleep, technology such as an audiobook or a special kids relaxation or meditation recording can aid slumber.”
4. Try digital liberation together as a family
“Helping your child unplug in the evenings is one of the easiest, and most effective ways to encourage good sleep habits. Encouraging young ones to stay away from electronics such as smart phones, the TV, computer consoles and computers, 2 hours before bedtime and remove any unhealthy electronic distractions from their bedroom will set them up for a good sleep.
“Electronic devices emit light that keeps you awake at night by suppressing melatonin secretion in your brain, which keeps you from falling asleep. Both powerfully addictive and proven to fragment sleep by emitting alerts during the night, use of devices can generate anxiety and frustration right before bedtime – so best to remove or at least reduce tech use before they nod off!”