Going from late-night summer to the early morning autumn school-term can be a difficult for a child...meaning difficulty for the parent trying to coax sons and daughters into better sleeping patterns. Warren Evans' sleep adviser Dave Gibson provides some helpful tips for getting your little ones back to sleep as they go back to school.
Make the sleep routine a joint effort by talking to your child about it beforehand. This way they can learn why it’s important and feel involved in the decision, rather than it being imposed on them. Younger children can benefit from a picture chart rather than a discussion, showing images of a good bedtime routine.
2. Just one more...
Children are geniuses when it comes to making excuses for getting out of bed; one more cuddle, story or glass of water (that’s never really the last one!) Learn what your child normally asks for at bedtime and work it into their routine, so you’ve pre-empted their ability to ask for one more. That way all avenues are exhausted before bed, so your child will know that once in bed it is exclusively sleep time.
3. Powercut to de-energise
Lots of children’s favourite things can leave them too energised to go to bed, so it’s important to clear these away long before sleepy time. No caffeine (found in chocolate) in the evenings and stop any screen time (everything from iPads to TV or iPods) an hour before bed.
4. Tidy away summer
Clear away all those toys and clutter that have accumulated over the summer holidays. Bedrooms need to be clear and tidy to minimise distractions (the bedtime battle is hard enough without calls for playtime!)
5. Build them there own sleep cave
Create the right environment in the bedroom by having it set-up for good sleep, which is dark, quiet and cool. Lower body temperatures indicate to the body that it is night-time (i.e. the sun has gone). However, have extra blankets on hand in case they get cold in the night.
6. Slow and steady wins the race!
Children can find it difficult to adjust to a new routine, so introducing it gradually can seriously lessen the bedtime tantrums. Adjust bedtime by 15 minutes each day until you reach the ideal time. Once in this pattern it’s important to keep to the same time, even at weekends.
7. Routine, routine, routine.
Take this time to formulate a solid bedtime routine, including something relaxing. Try gentle activities like reading, gentle yoga or conversation. One great idea is to discuss what your child would like to dream about tonight, getting them in the mindset for sleep.
8. Bright and early
Our bodies are designed to recognise sunshine as time to get-up-and-go, so help your children wake up more naturally with a bit of sun in the morning. Get them up earlier by opening the curtains, or having breakfast outside in the sunshine (weather permitting!) A morning dose of sunshine will not only stimulate their brains, but waking up earlier will make them tired earlier too, so when bedtime comes they will be ready.
9. Get their hearts pumping
Exercise boosts serotonin production, which is then turned into melatonin, the sleep hormone. Getting your children to exercise more in the day will reduce the time it takes for them to get to sleep and will increase the total time they sleep. Make sure all exercise is finished around two hours before bed, to allow time to settle down.
For more advice, see Warren Evans’ Sleep Naturally campaign: it aims to highlight the modern day issues we face when it comes to sleep and offers expert guidance, helpful tips and practical tools that you can use everyday, to help you and your family get a better night's sleep, naturally. To explore this campaign, click here