As a mother of a 10-year-old and a 6-year-old, I welcome the start of a new school year with open arms, yet at the same time, I always forget one very important preparation in the lead-up…getting the kids back into a sleep routine. Before I know it, it’s the middle of Term 1 and the kids are still struggling to get into bed at a decent hour, then so repeats the "dragging out of bed" ritual to get them ready for school come morning. I’m sure you all know the drill and can relate. It’s not a great cycle to be in and yet we all seem to do it. So this year, in an attempt to deliver more ‘calm’ to my household and reduce the daily conflicts with the kids, I have researched the top tips to get sleep hygiene back in place and I am sharing these with you all in the hope that we can all get ahead of the curve this time (if only slightly!).
Childhood sleep consultant Anna Baker, has personally taken my calls over the years every time I had a sleep challenge with my kids. As the guru of sleep, she is passionate about instilling good sleep practices in children. “Sleep is essential and it allows our body to relax, revitalise and repair. Good sleep helps immune function and prevents sickness. Kids need sleep to maintain their energy but they also need it to maintain their cool. Take away their sleep and you might think you’ll get a sleepy child, but often the opposite occurs and you get a hyperactive kid who just can’t focus at school” says Baker.
Now is probably a good time to remind ourselves on how much sleep our children actually need in order to function at their best in school (or just generally).The National Sleep Foundationadvises that primary school children need between 9–11 hours of sleep per night. For secondary school children, the target range is between 8-10 hours.
So, where do we go from here in ensuring our kids are getting their full hours? I’ve rounded up the best tips covering all bases on how to re-establish a bedtime routine for school;
First and foremost,establish a new bedtime routine for the year. Winding down is a great way to slow down the mind and the body in preparation for sleep. Giving kids a warm bath, reading with them, engaging in some form of meditation or even journaling (depending on their age) are all calming activities that help prepare the mind and body for sleep. Even dimming the lights throughout the house is believed to subconsciously activate the body’s natural response to nighttime. Our Lullaby Sleep Tea and Magnesium Oil Lavender Spray are some other great + natural options to help include into a routine.
Be realistic and dedicate the time to do it right. Ironically, a bedtime routine won’t happen overnight! At our house we start the process 60 mins before their head hits the pillow, as this allows enough time for each component, including ample time for bedtime reading. Try implementing this routine in the weeks prior to school going back, so your kids become used to the routine and have had time for their body clocks to adjust to normality. More on that in our next tip...
The Sleep Foundation provides a great guide on how toadjust a sleep schedule, their main point being that it needs to be doneincrementally. They recommend starting to shift the wake-up time and bedtime for kids by 15mins every few days, until your child is sleeping and waking at the desired times for school. Rather than one drastic change, this method allows time for the body to adjust slowly and naturally (and hopefully without the temper tantrums - win!).
Sleep specialist Anna highlighted to me that the sharing of parental duties with a bedtime routine is often overlooked. "It’s critical that all involved in the kids’ nighttime routines (parents, grandparents, nannies, older siblings) are all on the same page, communicate with one another and establish an equitable nightly routine" says Baker. If the whole family is not aligned, the kids won’t have a chance to get into a routine in the first place.
Share this process and journey with your kids.Help them to understand the benefits that sleep provides and the reason why you want them to work together with you on getting the routine back. If they can understand on a rational level that you are not being a ‘nasty parent’ but rather doing what’s best for them (shock!), it can help in those moments of tension. With my 6-year-old, I’ve started using the language of ‘sleep helps your brain rest and your body grow’. With my 10-year-old, I use it as a time to have some mother-son bonding.
I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that the hardest habit to kick in our household has beenlimiting exposure to blue light before bedtime. Countless scientific studies conclude that exposure to blue light before bedtime impacts not only a child's ability to fall asleep but their quality of sleep throughout the night. One of the key concerns is that blue light suppresses melatonin, the body’s natural hormonal that gets you ready for sleep. For this reason, it’s encouraged that all TV, computers, iPads, phones and gaming consoles should be avoided in the 1-2 hours leading up to bedtime. I won’t lie, with a 10-year-old boy in our house, this has been a challenge, however we’ve found consistency is key, and so all devices are off in our household from 5pm (including the TV).
Don’t overlook the potential for sensory impacts and the environment. A cooler room is recommended to help children fall asleep, whilstsleepwear that allows the body to breathe throughout the night is critical to helping their sleep go uninterrupted. Awakind’s Organic Bamboo PJ’s are the perfect solution for kids and teens. They’re thermoregulating and hypoallergenic (great for little ones with sensitive skin or eczema), luxuriously lightweight and come in an array of styles and colours to choose from! Comfy jammies that actuallyhelp your kids sleep better sounds like a dream come true to me.
I hope these tips and tricks have found you at the right time for re-adjusting your kids’ bedtime routine. At the risk of sounding preachy, I've had to be reminded on more than one occasion that sleep should always be the thing I prioritise in my kids lives for them to be their best selves, so extra-curricular activities and everything else should fit around sleep. It's much easier said than done though!