Getting Your Child's Sleep Schedule Back on Track for School

Summer holidays are a time when children's bedtimes tend to shift later, allowing for more family time in the evenings and some much-needed rest for parents in the mornings. However, as the new school year approaches, this late-night routine can pose a challenge.

Most schools start around 8:30 am, making it impractical for children to sleep in until 9 or 10 am during term time. Transitioning back to the school routine can be a struggle, especially when bedtimes and mornings are out of sync. In this blog, Dr. Lindsay Browning shares some valuable tips to help your children get back into a routine, get sufficient rest, and wake up on time as school restarts in September.

Holiday Activities and Sleep

During the summer break, various factors can disrupt or alter bedtime routines. It's important to be aware of these factors and how they might have affected your child's sleep.

Screen Time

Many children experience a significant shift in their routines during the holidays, with increased screen time being a common occurrence. Without the obligation of school, children may spend more time on devices and in front of screens, especially if parents are working from home. Additionally, there's often less need for homework or revision.

Exposure to screens close to bedtime can hinder sleep because it exposes the brain to bright light, making it harder to fall asleep. Our brains require darkness in the evening to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone. Bright screens trick the brain into thinking it's still daytime, reducing melatonin production.

Lack of Physical Activity

During school holidays, children tend to be less physically active. Fewer out-of-school clubs and sports activities are available, and there's no need for the daily commute to school.

Physical activity plays a significant role in sleep quality. Active children tend to sleep better, both in terms of the amount and depth of sleep they get.

Holiday Bedtimes

The timing of bedtime and wake-up routines can also change during the summer break. Children often stay up later and wake up later because they don't have to be up early for school. While this isn't inherently problematic, it can become challenging when school is about to start, as children may have a very different sleeping pattern from what they'll need for school.

Back-to-School Bedtime and Sleep Tips

  1. Gradual Adjustment: Start moving your children's bedtime and wake-up time slightly earlier a few days before school starts. Gradually shift their schedule by 15-20 minutes each day. Set alarms to ensure they don't oversleep.

  2. Morning Light Exposure: Expose your children to morning sunlight by going outside to the park or having breakfast in the garden. This exposure helps shift their circadian rhythm, making it easier to wake up and fall asleep earlier.

  3. Reestablish Routines: Reintroduce regular pre-bedtime routines. Consistent activities before bed, such as reading, taking a bath or shower, and getting into pajamas, signal to the brain that it's time to sleep. Reinstate the routine a few days before the school term starts.

  4. Limit Screen Time: Reevaluate screen time limits as school restarts. Consider reactivating parental controls and enforcing screen time limits, especially in the evening. Enable night mode on devices to reduce blue light exposure before bedtime.

  5. Open Communication: Address any worries or anxieties your child may have about returning to school. Create opportunities for these discussions outside the bedroom to avoid associating the bedroom with worries.

It's normal for children to take some time to readjust to their school-year bedtime routine. By following these tips and gradually reintroducing routines, you can ensure your child gets enough sleep to face the school day, even if it takes a little time to return to normal routines.

If sleep issues persist, seeking further support may be necessary. Dr. Lindsay Browning offers services for children to help address sleep-related concerns. Don't hesitate to reach out for assistance in ensuring your child's healthy sleep habits during the school year.