The start of the new school year is slowly sneaking up on us. Not only is it time to make sure our children have everything they need to start the school year: backpack, lunchbox, uniform, labels and more. It is also time to start having a good look at their sleep routine to start preparing them for that first day. During the holidays it can be quite normal to be lenient about sleep routines with vacations, playdates and just enjoying those lovely long summer days. But it is important to take a few weeks at the end of the vacation to start preparing for the new school year.
Sleep helps ensure our children have a successful school year. Kids need sleep to recharge and to prepare the day ahead. Missed sleep can have a massive effect on school performance including – difficulty concentrating, memory and behavior problems. Sleep plays an important part in ensuring our children have a successful school year. Kids need their sleep to recharge their bodies after a long day and to prepare them for the day ahead. Not getting enough sleep can have a massive effect on their school performance including – having difficulty concentrating, remembering what they learned, behavior problems and so much more.”]
Missing out on vital sleep can also affect your kid’s physical health (meaning they might miss out on more school) and their mental health as well. Think of it this way: how well do you do after a few days of missed or poor quality sleep? Chances are your kids feel the same.
So, if we want our children to have the best start to school we really need to get them back on track and well-rested for the start of the school year. Here are my top sleep tips for preparing for the new school year.
When possible don’t stray too far away from normal sleep routines.
It is important for children to go to bed and wake up at a time that is close to their normal sleep routine, even during the holidays. We all have sleep windows when our body is primed for sleep. When we sleep at those times we will have the best rest. Straying far away from those times (for naps and night sleep) can lead to overtiredness, difficulty falling asleep and waking up feeling like the sleep wasn’t very restful. Essentially, the timing of sleep, not just the duration, is important.
Start getting them into their school bedtime/wake up routine early.
If your children have strayed a bit far from their normal routine take a few weeks to gradually move their bedtimes and wake up times to their normal school routine. You can move those bedtimes and wake up times incrementally every few days with the aim of being back to the school routine one week before school starts. Maintain that routine for the week leading up to school and combine it with getting out and about in the sunlight (see below).
Moving bedtimes are important to ensure your kids are getting the rest they need come school time and to ensure they are used to the school days bedtime. It is also important to start waking them up in the morning at the time they’d get up for school. Some kids just wake up at the same time every day whether it is summer vacation or not, but if your kids are the type to enjoy a sleep-in whilst on vacation, start to get them used to waking up at the right time to get ready for school too. Maybe you can even practice the get ready for school routine if they are new to the school process.
Have fun in the sun.
Sunlight (and lack thereof at night) helps teach our bodies when it is time to be awake and when it is time to sleep. Getting outside to play and run around not only ensure’s our children have the exercise they need but it will also help get them into their sleep/wake routine ready for school.
Establish a bedtime routine.
For babies and toddlers, we all know a bedtime routine is incredibly important. It gives clues that bedtime is coming. The same can be said for school-aged children. Have a bath, read to your kids, then sing them a song perhaps. If your child is older, send them into their bedroom half an hour before bedtime time to read in bed.
No screen time before bed.
It is incredibly important to have a ban on screen time at least an hour before bedtime. It can really disrupt a person’s ability to sleep. For older children who have their own devices, make sure they only use them in the living areas and that they don’t go into the bedroom and be tempted to use them at night. Having any screens (phone, TV, iPad) in the bedroom is associated with sleep problems and less sleeping.
Quieten the house before bedtime.
As you may know, I always stress how important bedtime routines are to provide sleep cues to your kids, but so is giving your kids the opportunity to relax and unwind before bedtime. Quiet play and book reading are good for this, and if your child is interested yoga and meditation can work as well. Part of this process can be quietening the house. Turn off all the noises in the house (TV, music, etc) and dim all the lights. If you can’t dim them, keep only the necessary ones on. Do quiet activities even before the bedtime routine starts, not activities that ramp the kids up into excitement mode. This will help prepare your children that bedtime is on its way and provide opportunities to relax and wind down.
Be a role model for healthy sleep habits.
A sit down with your kids about the school routine for the coming year can be a great way to introduce the fact that you’ll be getting strict with their routine. You can also talk about how you will be going to bed earlier and modeling appropriate sleep behavior.
Now that you have a plan for preparing yourself and your kids for the coming school year I’d like to leave you with a little word of advice. The school year is peppered with school closures and weeks off. It is important not to stray too far away from your child’s normal sleep routine during this time. We want our kids to be as well-rested as possible and thrive at school.
Good luck with the school year!