How To Get Your Child Back Onto An Early Bedtime Schedule
new sleep habits for the new school year
During the school holidays, your child’s sleep routine and bedtime schedule inevitable go out of the window. In the preparation leading up to returning to school. There is a lot of things to think about including sorting school uniform, packing school bags, but the most important of all is getting your child back into a proper sleep routine. A good nights sleep is vital for your child to be able to learn and achieve during the school day. But it can be a bit daunting trying to get the child back to an early bedtime schedule.
When To Get Back Into A School Bedtime Routine?
There is no hard and fast rule about when to try and get your child settled back into a bedtime routine. It is tempting to continue the summer holidays for as long as you can, and allow the late nights or lie-ins to continue. Children need routine, especially during term time. So it is recommended to start getting back into a school bedtime routine at least a week before the start of term. Every child is different and has different needs so ensure you focus on what is right for your child. Experiencing sleep difficulties?
How To Deal With Difficult Bedtimes and Mornings
It is unrealistic to expect your child to be fully accepting of this change in routine and the transition from holidays to school mode. It may bring with it some difficult bedtimes and mornings.
At night, try to overcome this by stopping any stimulating activities at least 1 hour before bedtimes such as watching TV or being on their tablet or phone. This is because the blue light emitted from them can stop the body from producing the sleep hormone, Melatonin. Instead, try to include some wind-down time such as a bath, putting on their pyjamas and reading a story. The key is to be firm and consistent with your approach.
Even as adults we don’t like to jump out of bed as soon as our alarms go off so, in the morning, give your child a ten-minute buffer from when they wake up, to when they need to get up. This will allow them to wake up slowly. You could try using an Alexa or other similar device to set an alarm so that the child wakes up gently, or even to their favourite playlist.
How To Adjust Bedtime Timings
As mentioned before, during the holidays, children will inevitably go to bed later and/or get up later the next morning. Bringing bedtimes forward needs to be done in stages. You can’t expect a child who has been going to sleep at 9 pm in the holidays to then being asleep by 7 pm. Try bringing your child’s bedtime forward by 5 -15minutes every day so that it is done gradually. This will help your child to adjust to the change in times.
School runs are hard and busy enough without having to drag a sleepy child from their bed. So it is also good to try and adjust them to waking at an earlier time and going to bed at an earlier time. However many minutes you bring your child’s bedtime forward, also do the same to the time you wake them the following morning.
It is important to remember that as your child gets older, their bedtime routine will need to change too. Generally, it is unreasonable to expect an older child to go to bed and be asleep by 7 pm and then be up at 7 am. Children need from 9-11 hours of sleep a night, so create a bedtime routine with your child that will allow for this.
Bedtime Dos and Don’ts
Do – be consistent. Include the same steps in your routine, even as times may shift.
Do – Include dental hygiene. Children should be brushing their teeth twice a day and be understanding why it is imortant to do this, especially before bedtime.
Do – Offer some choice. This allows your child to feel that they are part of the bedtime process. Let them choose their own pajamas or books to read for example.
Do – Make the room dark. Blackout blinds are really good at helping to keep the room dark, especially in summer months, and will make the room dark enough to promote sleep.
Do – comfort your child if they need it. This may be in the form of a cuddle if the child is younger, or check backs as they fall asleep as they get older. Your child may want to use an object for comfort such as a teddy or a blanket.
Don’t – Have stimulating activities before bedtime. This has spoken about above with the blue light and it preventing Melatonin (the sleep hormone). Try to stop any screen time about 60mins before bed.
Don’t – Allow it to drag out. Set the boundaries and be consistent. Children will tend to call out, ask for drinks, need the toilet etc. Try to be firm and stick to your original bedtime.
Don’t – Create poor sleep associations. If you create routines of you being with your child, or having a certain song play while they fall asleep can mean your child will struggle to settle again once they have woken in the night. They will tend to then call out and need you back with them to help them fall back asleep.