Pizza-fuelled sleepovers… Epic all-night gaming sessions… Whole weeks spent with obliging grandparents… Over the summer break, there’s any number of reasons why your kids’ sleep routine may have ‘slackened’.
During the long light nights, it can be all too easy to cave into demands for: “Just another hourrrrrr!” But with ‘Back to School’ ringed in red on your calendar and a desperate new uniform dash on the horizon, now is the time to reclaim that precious sleep routine that means come September, teatime tantrums and homework battles at least have a deadline.
How much sleep does your child need?
What time do you want your child to go to sleep on a ‘school night’? NHS experts advise a five-year-old needs around 11 hours sleep, compared with 9 hours 45 minutes for a 10-year-old, or nine hours for a 16-year-old. These times can vary up to an hour either way.
As you probably know, ‘sleep time’ is very different to bedtime. If your child needs wind-down time in their own room before they drop off, factor this into your equation.
Implement your new routine now
There’s no point waiting till the night before the new term to try and enforce a sleep crackdown. To avoid World War Three, between now and the start of term, gradually reduce your bedtime deadline by 15 minutes every couple of days. Aim to have hit your target time the night before school starts back.
If you’ve got a late sleeper on your hands, start waking your child a little earlier each day so they’re better prepared for the shock of a 7.30am wake-up call.
Don’t neglect mealtimes. Over the summer, breakfast can easily drift into lunch, with teatime extending past 7pm (BBQ at granddad’s anyone?). As school approaches, set and stick to school-friendly mealtimes that mean come the start of term, eating cereal at 7.30am is not such an outrageous idea!
Park the summer positively
Framing the end of the summer positively allows children to make the mental transition to school mode. Focus on the ‘best bits’ by creating a summer 2015 photo album. If your kid is techie, you could even do this together online!
Pre-back-to-school nerves guarantee that the first night before the first day back will be a restless one – and not just for the kids. Everyone in the household will sleep better knowing they’re organised, which means school uniforms in easy reach; shoes by the front door; bags packed; and lunch plans sorted. Have your car keys or bus change to hand and refuel if you need to. If your child is starting a new school, do a ‘dummy run’ to make sure you know the route.
Knowing what’s coming up on the horizon for the first few weeks will help too. Get an organiser-style school year calendar and hang it prominently in your family room. Notes will be coming in about trips and afternoon clubs from day one. With your calendar to hand, you can be organised from the word ‘Go’.
A good night’s sleep is your single biggest weapon against ‘Back to School Blues’. Make sure your bedroom is an inviting place to retreat to after the school day. Invest in a mattress that will give you adequate support, and a bedframe that makes your soul smile!