There are still a couple of weeks of the school holidays left, but if your child has been staying up later and sleeping in for longer, now is the time to start to think about easing them back into their regular sleeping pattern. A good night’s sleep is really important to your child, vital to both their health and to effective learning, but it’s important not to switch suddenly back to a term-time sleep schedule, as this can be a shock to your child’s system. So here’s how to ease them back in gently and make sure they’re waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed come September!
1) Start now. You can do it gradually, sending them to bed and waking them up just ten minutes or so earlier each day until you’re back on their usual sleep schedule so that they’re able to get used to it slowly.
2) Have a bedtime routine that you stick to each night. Have your child wind down with a milky drink or a bath, by reading a book — whatever works best. Your child will associate this routine with going to sleep and start to feel tired, helping them to doze off. Stick to the routine and set bedtimes at the weekends as well as far as possible, as changes will just throw off your child’s body clock.
3) Make sure the routine doesn’t involve electronics. TVs, computers and phones should be turned off at least an hour before bed, as the light can stop the release of hormones that form an important part of the sleep cycle.
4) Cut out the caffeine. If your child likes coke or similar fizzy drinks, chocolate etc., then limit them and make sure your child isn’t having any less than six hours before bed, as you want to give it time to leave their system.
5) Check that none of your child’s bedding needs replacing, making sure that their mattress, pillows and bedclothes are all comfortable and getting rid of anything that’s no longer up to standard.
6) Make sure your child is going to bed at the same time each night and that their bedtime is allowing them to get the right amount of sleep — depending on their age, they may need anything from 8 to 11 hours a night.
7) Try to schedule meals for similar times each day as well. Not only is this part of a routine, but it will directly impact sleep in other ways too — eating too late will stop your child falling asleep, while eating too early may mean that they are hungry again by the time they head to bed.
8) Explain to your child the importance of a good night’s sleep. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be thrilled about going to bed earlier, but knowing the benefits, such as feeling better during the day and growing taller and stronger, might help them along a bit.
9) It may still be quite light outside at the time your child goes to bed for the next few weeks. If this is a problem, thicker blinds or curtains may help. If you don’t want to buy new curtains, you could try pinning a piece of thick, dark material to the window frame during the night.
10) Try to apply these rules to yourself as well — you’ll also need to get used to the change to your daily routine when your child goes back to school, it will benefit you as much as it benefits them, and the best way to establish good sleeping habits to your children is leading by example!