Need to know: Tips and strategies on resetting your child’s sleep routine after school holidays.
During the school holidays, families may change their sleep patterns to accommodate a different daily routine. The break is often filled with activities, day trips, gatherings, and other fun events, which can lead to busy days with later bedtimes and sleep-ins to make up for it. As a result, the first couple of weeks of a school term can be difficult for most kids as they try to readjust to a new and less exciting routine.
To make the transition back to school easier, experts encourage parents to make gradual changes to sleep schedules two weeks before school starts.
Why it’s important
Changing the sleep and wake up routine the night before the first school day is a recipe for an emotional disaster. Your child’s body clock has adjusted to a later bedtime, and asking them to go to sleep earlier will only get you pushback. More importantly, sudden changes to a sleep routine increases the risk of sleep disruption and insomnia, and it can also cause feelings of jet lag, with symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Not the perfect start for a new school term!
Making gradual changes allows your child’s body to gradually adjust to the new routine, making the transition much smoother. By gradually moving bedtime and wake-up times closer to the desired schedule, the body has time to adjust and adapt. This allows the internal body clock to shift gradually, making it easier for your child to fall asleep and wake up.
It’s also important to note that it can take time for our body to fully adjust to a new sleep schedule. So, it’s important to be patient and consistent with the gradual changes, even if it takes a few days or even a week for your child to fully adjust.
Sleep is critical to your child’s wellbeing and success at school – make it a priority. The research is clear, children who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk for a number of physical and mental health problems, as well as difficulties with learning and behaviour. The symptoms of ADHD mirror those of tired kids. Impulsivity and inability to focus are two of the classic ADHD symptoms that can be displayed by kids who are simply tired.
Tips & strategies
Establish a sleep schedule. In order to establish a sleep routine that works for school, try the following:
- Make sure your child goes to bed early enough to get the sleep they need. This might be up to 12 hours per night for school-aged kids.
- Adjust your child’s wake-up time by 15-minute increments each morning. Waking them up a little earlier each day will help to make them tired earlier. Bring bedtime forward by 15-minutes each day as well.
- Continue to adjust wake-up/bedtime in 15-minute increments until your child is waking at the desired time each morning. If you start this process two weeks before school starts they should be in a routine by the first day back.
- Once you have set a suitable bedtime it’s important to stick to it, even on weekends.
Practise healthy habits to promote sleep hygiene. We can optimise our daily routine to ensure we achieve a good night’s sleep. This is called sleep hygiene. To help establish good habits:
- Help your child establish a bedtime routine that is conducive to sleep. This could include a shower, brushing teeth, reading a book, quiet conversation and cuddles with a parent.
- Ensure your child gets regular exercise but not within the 2 hours prior to bedtime so the body has time to wind down.
- Avoid naps, or limit their duration to 20 minutes.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Avoid eating large meals just before bed.
- Turn off devices 1-2 hours before bedtime.
- Dim the lights before bedtime to help get the body ready for bed.
Other strategies to help with sleep
- Adjust the temperature of the bedroom so that it is cooler rather than too warm.
- Try magnesium baths to help the body wind down.
- Practice mindfulness at bedtime.
- Listen to an audio book.
- Adjusting Your Child’s Sleep Schedule in 8 Easy Steps
- Back to School Sleep Tips: Routines, Schedules, & Sleep Hygiene | Sleep Foundation
- Tips for shifting kids back to their school sleep schedule
- Sleep routines set kids up for success at school
- Healthy sleep habits before kindergarten help children adjust to school