Getting back into a sleep routine for term-time might seem like a bit of an uphill struggle following a summer of late nights, holidays and days out. But it doesn’t have to be.
Children need more sleep than adults – an average of 10 hours per night. Primary school children will need closer to 11 and teenagers slightly less. Sleep is incredibly important for a child’s mental and physical development. The more deep sleep they get (scientifically known as slow wave sleep) the better. This is when the brain processes information and helps them remember and learn. Lack of sleep can lead to irritability and mood swings, behavioural problems including hyperactivity and cognitive problems. These not only impact their ability to learn in school but can also prove distracting for classmates.
Days without structure can play havoc with sleep routines. It’s therefore advisable to start getting stricter with bedtimes and morning wake up calls a week or so before they pull on their school uniform for a new year. The best way to get your child back into a sleep routine is with a steady transition. Slowly reduce the amount of time they can stay up by 10-20 minutes a day until they’re back to normal. Avoid waiting until two or three days before school resumes!
It’s also important to have ‘wind down’ time where toys and electronic devices are packed away. Create time for a bath, a warm milky drink and a night time story for younger ones. Having this sleep routine is brilliant for helping a child relax and get ready to sleep well. The bed should be really comfortable and welcoming too.
With this in mind, here are our Sleep Well top tips for a great term time sleep routine:
Outdoor play, bike rides and trampolining are all great. Even ten minutes exercise a day can help children sleep better at night.
Avoid products with caffeine and a high sugar content where possible. Don’t forget, chocolate contains caffeine so check the ingredients label.
Try and get into a regular bedtime routine. Doing things in the same order each night before bed really helps programme the brain that it’s time for sleep. A bath, bedtime drink of warm milk, brushing teeth then settling down for a story or to read is perfect.
Make sure the bedroom is a tech-free zone. You’ll reduce distractions and exposure to ‘blue light’ which impacts melatonin production (the hormone your body produces to make you feel sleepy). If that’s not possible, try zoning the bedroom into sleep and play areas.
You want a room that is dark, cool, quiet, safe and comfortable. Have a read of our blog post, The Ideal Sleep Environment for tips on how to do this.
Make sure the bed is comfortable and supportive – so no springy mattresses! Just as importantly, make sure the bed is big enough. Your child will seem to be ever-growing and the last thing you want is them cramped up at night.