Many parents struggle to get their children back into a suitable sleep pattern after the summer break, and this can lead to longer term sleep struggles that leave everyone feeling frazzled. Erica Hargaden is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant who has helped over 3000 families globally through her sleep courses, the Sleep Series. Here are her tips to help the family get back into a routine.
1. If bedtime has snuck later and later over the summer months and you’ve not managed to bring it back yet, start scaling it back gradually day by day. Try doing this by 15 minutes every two days until you have reached the desired bedtime.
2. Set a consistent wake-up time and stick to it. This does mean actively waking a sleeping child, but it helps them to shift their body clocks back to bedtime mode too. As before, do this gradually. Open their curtains and flood the room with light, then gently wake them by pulling back the duvet. Then give them some time to wake while quietly reminding them that it is time to wake up.
3. Be consistent with the bedtime routine Turn off the TV at a designated time, allowing time for teeth brushing, face washing and general bedtime prep. Then allow time for wind down and reading. This will not only improve their speech and language skills, but also fire their imagination. It is also important one-on-one time with your child, allowing you both to connect after a busy day. Allow older children up to 30 minutes ‘ reading time before lights out. Remember that this needs to be added to your bedtime routine.
4. Turn off all screens. including TVs, one hour before bed. Blue light technology and its impact on sleep is being investigated right now and all signs are pointing to it having a negative impact. Blue light from these devices inhibits melatonin production, the sleepy hormone, and impacts on your child’s ability to settle. Encourage reading, colouring or quiet floor games instead during wind-down time.
5. Ensure your child’s room is as dark as possible at bedtime. Darkness is extremely important for sleep as it supports the production of melatonin – the sleepy hormone that helps them to get to sleep and stay asleep for longer.
6. Assess how much sleep your child needs. A child of six needs 10-11 hours at night and doing your best to make sure this happens will help your child get not only the right quantity, but the best quality sleep, to support growth and development.
7. Encourage outdoor exercise and play. Getting out in sunshine and day light helps to regulate the body clock and sleep associated hormones. The exercise will use up energy but the light exposure will further help with restful, restorative sleep.
8. Organise regular mealtimes, with three meals a day rather than constant grazing. The kids might not be too happy about it for a few days, but they’ll soon get into the swing of it.
9. Hydration is crucial in promoting good sleep. The body is mostly made up of water but in our everyday activities we expel a huge amount. Ensuring good hydration helps to balance overall health. A hydrated child will sleep better at night and perform better at school
10. Make sleep a priority in your family. Lack of consistent, consolidated sleep can make children tearful, fretful and lead to mood and behaviour issues. This will impact on their ability to concentrate and focus at school.