Adjusting your child’s bedtime routine before they go back to school will help them get enough sleep to feel well-rested and ready to take on those first few lessons after the holidays.
Rising to the early ring of the alarm clock at the start of a new term isn’t always easy, especially after carefree weeks spent staying awake later than usual in the evenings, and lying in bed for longer in the morning.
Here CashLady looks at how to adjust your child’s bedtime routine by making small changes now, including going to bed earlier and embracing healthy sleep hygiene habits to promote a deep and restorative slumber.
Why your child’s bedtime routine is important
The key to identifying how much sleep is enough for your child is monitoring whether they get out of bed easily in the morning and then appear without too much grumpiness.
According to the NHS, warning signs that younger children are persistently sleep-deprived, include irritability and appearing overactive, seeking constant stimulation, and not concentrating well in school.
Start your child’s term-time bedtime routine now
Bringing forward your child’s bedtime and wake-up time by 15 minutes, every three days or so will gradually prepare them for going to bed and waking up earlier for school.
Monitor when they are falling asleep and then introduce the next 15-minute change to their bedtime once they are drifting off within 15-20 minutes of going to bed.
Their ideal bedtime depends, in a large part, on their age, and so use the NHS sleep guidelines, below, to help you work backwards from their required wake-up time.
Reccommended hours of sleep
10 hours, 45 minutes
10 hours, 30 minutes
10 hours, 15 minutes
9 hours, 45 minutes
9 hours, 30 minutes
9 hours, 15 minutes
9 hours, 15 minutes
Observe your child’s alertness in the morning and then adjust the timings as necessary, allowing for more sleep if they appear drowsy or grouchy during the day.
Once your child has settled into their bedtime routine, be sure to follow it consistently, even at weekends.
Sleep hygiene for a better bedtime
Sleep hygiene is a variety of good habits that should be practised each night before bed.
The recommends that everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from a regular night-time routine to encourage a deep and restorative sleep.
A predictable bedtime routine
A regular routine will help your child wind down and create healthy habits around sleep. Energetic play should be avoided in the hour leading up to bed and replaced with a predictable series of events.
This can include having a bath, brushing teeth, putting on pyjamas, calmly talking about the day, and reading a story from a book.
Reduce exposure to blue light before bedtime
Exposure to light is linked to the melatonin levels inside the body and the body’s natural body clock.
Darkness and the production of melatonin is the key to feeling sleepy, and so you should encourage as much darkness as possible around bedtime.
Have your child turn off their electronics, including the TV, an hour or two before they go to sleep. If they are intent on looking at a screen, perhaps finishing their homework on a computer, for example, it helps to dim the brightness of the screen.
Avoid using energy-efficient (blue) bulbs in night lights in bedrooms and bathrooms, instead, opt for dim red lights as these do not suppress the release of melatonin.
A cool, comfortable bedroom
You should try to keep your child’s bedroom at a comfortable bedroom temperature of 18 to 21 degrees Celsius.
When your child can’t sleep
If your child is tossing and turning because they can’t sleep then it can be helpful to get them out of bed, to prevent them from associating bed with sleeplessness.
Once out of bed encourage them to do something that isn’t too stimulating, such as reading a dry school book. They can return to bed once they are sleepy again.
If they are still awake after 20-30 minutes, they should repeat the process and get out of bed for another 20 minutes before returning.