Going back to school means a brand-new schedule for both parents and children alike. And we're not just talking about your daily drop-offs and pick-ups; some of the most important hours will be the ones your child logs when they're tucked into bed.
Alanna McGinn, founder and sleep consultant at Good Night Sleep Site, has some tips to help get your child's sleep schedule back on track before they head back to school. Who knows? You might pick up some better bedtimes habits, too.
Adjust to no naps prior to full-day school
Create an age-appropriate sleep environment
- Start to wean your child off of naps prior to school starting to get them used to being up all day.
- It's perfectly fine to offer quiet time but the main focus should be on bedtime. Since there will be a loss of daytime sleep, plus the stress of a new routine, it's important that an earlier bedtime is offered for the first few weeks (or months) until your child has adapted to the transition.
- Bring back the bedtime routine that can get forgotten about in the summer months; it should be calm and quiet to help prepare for sleep.
- Try and make the weekend low-key for the first few weeks so that your little ones can rest and recharge for the next week of school.
Ready the mind for sleep
- For children, the main priority is to create a safe sleep environment, but all family members of all ages can benefit from a dark, quiet and cool sleeping space.
- It's important that all bedrooms are clean and organized; it can be hard to sleep in a cluttered mess.
- Give all mattresses an audit every five years.
- Remove tech from all bedrooms.
- Turn the alarm clock around so you can't see the numbers. Waking up in the middle of the night is stressful enough, and watching the clock can add to that stress.
Don't forget your tweens and teens!
- Quieting the mind before bed is key, because anxiety is one of the leading causes of insomnia at all ages.
- Incorporate activities like meditation, bedtime yoga, and mindful breathing to lower the heart rate and clear the mind before bed.
- Both children and adults can keep a journal to write all of their worries and anxieties down to get them out of their head before going to sleep.
- Listen to calming music at bedtime.
- Open up communication about sleep needs. When teenagers understand the importance of sleep and their own sleep needs, they are more likely to establish sleep rules. Parents need to understand their teens sleep needs, too.
- Talk to them about the dangers of drowsy driving.
- Encourage consistent sleep patterns and calming bedtime routines—even for older kids. Put a bedtime in place that can be followed 80 per cent of the time.
- Make sure their room is for sleep only; bedroom should not also be a gym or home office.
- Have a family meeting an establish tech rules (e.g. handing in all technology at a certain time, establish where it goes in the home, etc.) It's important for you to explain why these steps are taking place and the consequences if the rules are broken. (Parents also need to be better sleep role models and remove tech from their bedroom, too!)