As the end of the summer looms, it is probably a good idea to get your bed and wake up times tightened up if they have been relaxed over the last few months. This is especially important if you have young children starting in preschool or returning to school. Sleep consultant Lucy Wolfe of Sleep Matters shares 5 tips for getting the sleep routine back on track.
I always encourage parents to have a flexible feeding and sleeping schedule that matches your child’s needs, but I believe over the summer months, where the evenings are long and lots of parents are holidaying, then it is natural for the children to stay up a bit later than normal, and if you are lucky to sleep longer in the mornings.
If this is you and because most terms begin within the next week or two, I have put together a list of suggestions that can help organise a schedule for a school orientated timetable.
Tips for a Back to School Sleep Routine
#1. Bring Back Bedtimes as Early as Possible
Sleep consultant Lucy Wolfe recommends starting to change bedtime to an earlier time as soon as you can, ideally at least a week or a few days before back to school.
If bedtime has been later recently with lazy mornings, I would advise gradually bringing bedtime forward over the next week or so until you get to a suitable bedtime for a young child (typically between 6pm-8pm). In tandem with this, I would encourage you to start waking your child in the morning, if they are not already up, by around 7am-7.30am so that you regulate their body clock and that there is plenty of time to get ready and out the door. Ideally, your child should wake naturally in the morning, representing that they have had enough sleep for their body.
#2. Create a Relaxing Routine for Bedtime
If you haven’t already, start introducing a bedtime routine to help your child transition from alert to sleepy. Most children benefit from a 20-30 minutes wind down in their bedrooms, before they get into their cot or bed.
Use this opportunity to have calm and enjoyable one to one time with your child and to also provide consistent sleep cues and positive associations with the big separation that is sleep.
Make sure that your child has an optimal sleeping environment. Adequately dark both at bedtime and early in the morning to promote longer duration of sleep.
#3. Exercise and a Healthy Diet Help Promote Quality Sleep
Ensure that your child is getting plenty of exercise, fresh air and exposure to natural light. Coupled with a balanced, healthy diet this can help promote quality sleep.
Cuddle up and get ready for a cosy bedtime with our list of 100 brilliant bedtime stories for kids and adults to enjoy together – all recommended by parents!
#4. Turn Off Gadgets an Hour Before Bedtime
Avoid television and other electronics within the hour before bedtime. Studies support that using the television and similar to wind down for sleep can actually have the reverse affect; inhibiting the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and causing the body to recharge and in turn find it difficult to ease into sleep.
#5. Allow for Sleep Transition as They Grow
If your young child still requires day time sleep, make sure that you allow for this. A pre-schooler may find themselves in a period of transition, needing naps some days and not others. Encourage “quiet” time everyday in the absence of a nap, to help them take time out from the busy day.