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Back to School Sleep

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I wanted to re-vamp my sleep tips for starting school. The darker nights are slowly, slowly drawing in and there is a sense of autumn in the air (although as I write this the sun is coming out to play). With this comes the return to school or the start of a new chapter of school and concerns around sleep.

This hits home for me personally as my son is starting big school this September and I am starting to reign in his later bedtimes and slowly introduce him back to his ‘normal’ bedtime routine.

I am sure I am not alone in this and many of you have been out of your normal term time routines or indeed never really had a regular routine. Now that the summer holidays are soon to be over you may be thinking about what type of routine you may have regarding their evenings and sleep in the run up to the autumn school term and when they start school.

I am a sleep consultant but I am also a mother and a realist and at times we have fallen out of our normal routine with slightly later bedtimes and slightly later morning wake ups.  I never judge anyone at any time and I am not going to start doing so over lack of routine over the summer holidays as I know how precious and sometimes stressful these holidays are.

What we need to look at now is how to get back on track so that they are ready to get up for school days and are mentally and physically refreshed.

Starting school is such a huge milestone in yours and your little one’s life and there will be much excitement surrounding it.

Your child’s school will ease them into school life gently but the first few weeks will be exhausting for them. They will be learning about the school routine, i.e lunch times, play times, where things are in the school and maybe even getting used to wearing a uniform. They will have so much fun meeting new people and playing with new toys and learning new activities but this is also very tiring. Sleep is essential now especially when there is so much going. I have a blog on the benefits of sleep that you can have a read of here that will give you more insight to the science and need for good quality sleep.  Good sleep enables the body to produce proteins to fight infections that they are bound to pick up from school. The brain needs sleep so that it can process all of the days learning’s and memories which of course is vital for school, plus, the deep sleep cycle that happens during the first part of the night is the only time in a 24-hour period that the body can secrete the growth hormone.

  •  Firstly I would advise you to start a bedtime routine if you do not already have one or if you do have a read of my better bedtime routine  blog for tips. Start a bedtime routine anytime but I would advise if you have the time to give at least 2 weeks of getting back into a strict routine and not leaving it until the last minute so that their body clocks can adjust before school starts. If they are currently having a later bedtime than usual then simply introduce a back to normal bedtime little by little. Move bedtime back 15 minutes every 3 days until you are back to the desired bedtime so that they get 10-12 hours night time sleep between the time they are asleep and waking up for school. If they are older children and can tell the time then you may need to be a little more imaginative and potentially adjust the clocks to read 15 minutes later.  Include some quiet and relaxing time before bed, take a look at relax kids website for tips to relax them.
  •  I always recommend a pre-bedtime snack during a little bit of quiet time before the upstairs bedtime routine starts.  There are lots of snacks your child can have that are low in sugar and contain naturally occurring melatonin (the sleepy hormone) that will aid sleep. These include things like a banana or a piece of wholemeal toast, see a list of these here, and hey, who doesn’t love a pre bedtime snack, I know I do.
  •  The bedroom environment is very important and you should make sure it is as close to 10/10 for darkness and that there are no glaring nightlights or projectors on when they sleep. When they wake in the night you want to ensure there is nothing stimulating that will catch their eye and wake them up. Their bedroom is for sleeping and so I would advise that all toys are shut away at night and their room is as relaxing and distraction free as possible.  
  •  There will be break and lunch times at school whereby they can run around and get some daylight but you may also want to consider some outside play after school especially in the winter months as fresh air and exercise aid sleep.
  • Try not to over schedule after school activities especially in the first term as they will be very tired.
  • They will be tired when they finish school for the first few weeks, maybe even the first term so if they are falling to sleep at dinner time, move bedtime forward by up to an hour (6pm being the earliest). Remember an early bedtime does not mean an earlier wake up time. It is better to have an early bedtime than become overtired.

Remember to talk to them about their day. You may find that they do not say anything for a while as there is probably too much to tell but you will get snippets here and there and it will help them process their day before bedtime.

If you need some guidance on your little ones sleep or want to get them into a sleep routine, get in touch for a free, no obligation 15 minute call and I can help you to help your child get the sleep they need for this great adventure.

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