This month we have a guest blog written by Jenna Wilson, mum of 3 and ex-solicitor, from Little Dreams Consulting. Little Dreams are a franchise who have helped over 1000 families worldwide to enable everyone to get a better night’s sleep!
How to get your older child school sleep ready!
Now we're at the end of the school holidays and close to the start of term, what is the best way to get your little one school ready? During the holidays we are often much more laid back about bedtimes and getting up than usual and, as your child hits puberty, hormones will make this even harder!
The importance of sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for children, especially when there is a lot of learning, developing and growing to do.
It is only during the deep phase of sleep that the growth hormone is secreted, together with the hormone that tells your child whether they are full or hungry.
Our immune system needs sleep in order to produce proteins to fight infection; vitally important when your little one goes to school and it is also vital for your child’s development too. If your little one does not sleep well, the brain cannot ‘press save’ on what they learned that day. This becomes even more important for children at school. If they are not able to ‘press save’ on what they learned that day they really will struggle, especially as what they learn becomes more tricky and complex!
Getting your children ready for school from a sleep point of view may not seem like a big deal but in 2017 Dr Guy Meadows undertook a study on school aged children for a Panorama programme.
During this study, school children slept 1 hour more per night, for a week, and the results were staggering:
- Their problem solving ability increased by 66%
• The results of a memory test they undertook increased by 57%
• Their attention and focus increased by 44%
You can see what a huge difference just one hour of sleep can make to your child’s education and development but how do you get them to get more sleep and what can you do to get our little ones back to school ready – sleep wise?
Tips to get your little one ‘school sleep’ ready
Don’t leave it to the last minute.
There’s still a couple of weeks before school starts because the easiest way to get back on track is little by little. During the school holidays we tend to be very laid back about bedtime but having a really late bedtime can be detrimental – especially as your child will need to be waking up for school in a couple of weeks, but all is not lost!!
Bear in mind your 6-13 year old needs an average of at least 10 hours of sleep a night (according to the National Sleep Foundation), this will vary from child to child but if your little one is going to sleep at 10pm, or later, they are unlikely to be getting the sleep they need (plus you, as a parent, and your partner if you have one, need to be able to be child-free for a few hours a day).
If your little one has been going to bed at around 10pm (or later) move bedtime earlier by about 10-15 minutes every few days until you’re back to their normal bedtime. They may not love it but boundaries are still important, even at senior school!
Establish a bedtime routine
If you had a good bedtime routine before the upheaval of the summer holiday try to re-implement it as much as possible. Familiarity will definitely help your child settle back into their routine quicker and with less resistance than trying out something new. If, however, you have not had a routine for few years, this can be a great time to start!
When your child’s body and brain start to associate things like baths/showers, stories, brushing teeth, putting on pjs, all done in the same order at the same time every night, it makes it a lot easier for them to fall asleep (not to mention the scientific benefits of body temperatures and baths/showers for a start)!
Turn off those screens
During the summer, we tend to be a little more relaxed about screen time so ensuring there is plenty of exercise and running around during the day is really important.
There can also be difficulty with screens before bed, whether they are phones, TVs, computers, or tablets, and the concern is that they emit a lot of blue light and they are stimulating. Now, I know everyone thinks that blue light will cause huge problems for falling asleep but recent research suggests that is not really the case (it increased the time it takes to fall asleep by a few minutes minutes). Plus, watching something which relaxes you on tv (even playing some games) have been found to be relaxing (and help teenagers cope with their worries - it is up to you whether you pass this information onto your children)! The important thing is that they don’t get caught in ‘the flow’ (where the game/programme just carries on to the next and to the next as that’s what is likely to keep them up)!
If your child is older, and the thought of giving up their phone may mean they will miss out on vital ‘chat’ with their friends, try to enlist their friend’s parents too. If there are a few children not up late ‘chatting’ it makes it a lot more bearable for your child if they are not the only one missing out, plus it means that any potential mean messages will be out of the way until morning! Putting phones away an hour or two before bed is probably something we should all do!
Make it really dark
Talking about light, the lovely lighter evenings we have been having mean it does not really get dark until later than 9pm and the only thing that simulates our ‘awake hormones’ better than a TV screen is sunlight. If your child’s bedroom is not a level of 10/10 dark I suggest investing in a set of blackout blinds. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive, you can get a travel bind for around £25 or even non-adhesive window film, which is just plastic you can cut to size and pop over the glass.
Avoid sugary foods and drinks
Ensure you avoid sugary foods or drinks before bedtime. This means any sugary snacks or even hot chocolate and milkshake need to be avoided in a couple of hours before bed. Try some cheese on toast (no it won’t give them nightmares) or some low sugar cereal instead.
Or make some of Kate's homemade granola with yoghurt and banana.
A couple of final things to add here: firstly keen an eye out for any sleep disorders. Generally, children should wake naturally most of the time, so if you were having to wake them, but you believe they are getting the right amount of sleep, speak to your GP to rule any medical issues out.
Secondly, if your routine and parenting style has been a little more relaxed over the summer be prepared for some arguments about why your little one should be allowed to stay up later for at least a few days (if not, potentially, the next eight or ten years).
Make sure you remain calm, consistent and confident with your back to school routine! They will soon learn that you are the most tenacious one and be school sleep ready in no time!