Back to School Sleep Readjustment

This years return to school feels different. None of know what is going to happen with regard to COVID but hopefully we will return to in person education. As a parent you may to start thinking how to implement some changes to bedtime routines, here are some ideas:

What Needs Readjustment

I would ask yourself two questions:

  1. Does my child bedtime routine need readjustment?
  2. Does my child sleep schedule need readjustment?

1. How can I readjust my child’s bedtime routine? 

Children and teen sleep patterns change throughout the holiday season. We all a bit of relaxation and catching up on sleep. In addition, my assumption is that screen time and late bedtimes increased. However, it is critical that you start putting the breaks on screen time use in the evening and ensure that there are clear rules about keeping screens out of your children’s room at night. Check out my other blog on the Impact of blue light from screens. ( Exposure to blue light affects our 24 hour cycle).

Many adults and children have trouble giving up their devices, so make sure you provide an alternative. Here are a few ideas:    

  • Meditation
  • A warm bath
  • Visualisation
Make a self soothe box
  • Drawing
  • Colouring
  • Journaling
  • A massage ( great for anxious children, the calm down chemical Oxytocin is produced)

Secondly, I would also give select a bedtime (when they must be in bed by…)  

The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following guidelines for sleep. ( They are guidelines, some children need more or less)

  • Pre-schoolers (ages 3-5) require 10-13 hours of sleep
  • School-age children (ages 6-13) require 9-11 hours of sleep
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) require 8-10 hours of sleep

From that place, start to implement a good bedtime routine ( it should be up to 45 minutes maximum).

A bedtime routine should be simple.

  • Bath
  • Bed
  • Story ( a book or make one up)
  • Cuddles

Talk with your teenager or tween about this, sit down and discuss it. It may be important to offer an incentive. In contrast to monetary rewards, I preferred to spend some special time with them.

When it comes to anxiety or night time fears, you will need to address them first. Find out more at this blog 9 Ways to Manage the Worry Monsters.

Does my Childs Sleep Schedule need readjustment?

If your child has had a more relaxed holiday bedtime, then start to bring back their bedtime by 15 minutes each night.

It will take a bit of time but worth it.

For many adults and teens, don’t forget about social jetlag.

What is Social JetLag?

Social jet lag, a term coined by German researcher Till Roennenberg in 2006, is the discrepancy in a person’s sleep pattern between the weekday and the weekend, which can cause a person to feel “jet lagged” or tired and fatigued.

While social jet lag can affect anyone, the problem is particularly common in teenagers. Teenagers are biological “night owls” who tend to go to sleep and get up late when schedules permit, such as on weekends or holidays. The problem arises when they are expected to go to sleep and get up early for school on weekdays. 

Basically, there are two forces that determine when we are awake or asleep at any point in time. The first is how long we’ve been awake, and the longer we’re awake the more tired we feel and it’s easier to fall asleep.

But, there’s this other force that keeps us awake during the day, which opposes that sleepy force or sleep debt that is building up. This is called our internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Dramatically adjusting the circadian rhythm confuses the body and brain – no longer knowing what time to go to sleep and what time to get up, which makes us feel horrible.

Consequently, teenagers consume more caffeine- and sugar-filled beverages/foods to combat this imbalance. ( Red Bull has nearly just as much caffeine as coffee). Caffeine is one of the biggest contributors to sleep disruption.  It affects the sleep promoting neurotransmitter called Adenosine.  

In addition, other potential side affects of social jetlag are:

  • Behavioural issues
  • Cognitive and attention difficulties
  • Sleep difficulties, general fatigue.
  • Mood Dysregulation
  • Obesity

Tips for Readjustment

  • Talk to them about this, then pause and listen
  • Show them videos on all Athletes, this is a great one below from Matthew Walker sleep guru.
  • Wake your teenager up at the same time everyday
  • Be consistent ( Consistency is the biggest thing. Even if your teen stays up later on the weekend, they should wake up within an hour of two of when they normally get up during the week. This means if your child gets up at 6 a.m. for school, they should be out of bed by 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday).
  • Get out in the morning light ( it doesn’t matter if it is cloudy)
  • Don’t let your teen sleep in.
  • Keep the bedroom environment calm and just for sleeping
  • Manage screens and caffeine intake

The Guardian have a great article on this and you cans share it with them and in addition you might learn something too.

In Conclusion

The beginning of school sets the tone for the year and kids who are having trouble sleeping may struggle.  I would advise parents to think about the sleep habits of their children, and how they may need to be readjusted prior to restarting school. Do contact me for a consultation if you are worried or concerned, it is never too late to change.

For Autumn, look out for my workshops, I will be offering a free sleep webinar in September so do sign up to my newsletter community for a space. 

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