Tired of fighting at bedtime? 10 simple steps to reset your child's sleep pattern as the new school term starts | The Sun

ABSOLUTELY nothing is improved by a bad night’s sleep – especially not the first day back to school after a summer of lie-ins and late nights. 

So if you’re dreading getting your child up for class again, or if their term has started and it’s already proving a nightmare rolling them out of bed, don’t worry, all is not lost. 

As part of The Sun's Beat The Back To School Bugs series – kicking off today – we're here to help you and your child ease into the new school year in the best possible shape, physically and mentally.

From tackling nits to making nutritious packed lunches, clocking mental health issues early and knowing your way round childhood vaccinations, we have you and your family covered.

For starters, that involves implementing a new sleep routine that works for you and for them, that is actually doable.

It just takes a little planning and perseverance, and it’s never too late to begin…

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1. Get started asap

“Nine days is the average time it takes for a post school holiday bedtime routine to stick,” says Silentnight’s sleep expert Hannah Shore.

“But starting the routine a few days before school will still help. 

“By introducing the routine early, your child’s body will start producing the necessary chemicals and sleep-promoting hormones at the right time, making it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up for school.”

2. Know how much sleep kids actually need

“People often forget that children need a lot more sleep than adults,” says Hannah. 

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“While we only need seven hours, primary school children need around 10 hours of sleep per night.

“There are two types of sleep: deeper NREM and lighter REM. 

“The latter is great for learning and emotional processing, whereas the former is when growth hormones are released and the body recovers – both are needed for a child to get the best night’s sleep.”

3. Start with staggered bedtimes

“It's a good idea to start moving your children's bedtime and wake time – probably earlier than they have been going to bed and getting up in the holidays – towards their normal times in the days before school starts,” says Dr Lindsay Browning, psychologist, neuroscientist and sleep expert for And So To Bed.

“This avoids a shock to the system the day school starts when they will probably have to be up a lot earlier than they have been.”

She recommends moving bed and wake times by around 15 to 20 minutes per day until you get to the ideal bedtime for your child. 

She adds: “Make sure you move both their bedtime and wake time by the same amount.”

4. Focus on ‘winding down’ time

“Everyone will have a completely different sleep routine, but the key is finding one that works best for you and your child and ensuring it includes winding down time,” says Hannah. 

“Having a pre-bedtime routine ensures that children know bedtime is coming,” adds Lindsay.

“Doing the same things before bed in the same order can help prepare the brain and body for sleep. 

“This routine may involve stopping screens an hour before bed; doing a peaceful activity such as reading or a jigsaw; taking a bath or shower and then getting into pyjamas and brushing teeth before bed.”

5. Manage tech use

“You may have allowed them more screen time over the summer holidays to keep them entertained,” says Lindsay.

“However, with school restarting, it might be a good ideal to reinstate screen time limits on the number of hours spent on devices, as well as stopping devices automatically in the evening. 

“Ideally, stop any screen time at least an hour before their bedtime. 

“If your child is still using a screen close to bedtime – parents can't win all wars! – then ensure they have night mode activated, which will reduce brightness and blue light that may disrupt sleep.”

6. Bedroom set up is vital

Devise cues so your child’s brain knows it’s time to get ready for bed. 

“Environment is really important for sleep and lights should be dim or ideally switched off in the bedroom to tell the body it’s time for bed,” says Hannah.

“The key is to make sure your child is comfortable in the setting they’re sleeping in – is the temperature ok (it should be around 18C)? Is it dark enough? Is the bedding comfortable?”

7. Be flexible

There’s no point strictly adhering to a sleep routine if it’s obviously not working for your child. 

“The most important tip – not just with sleep routines – is to not overdo it,” says Hannah.

“Ease your child into their new routine, make small changes to see if they work and, if they don’t, try something different. 

“The best sleep routines aren’t a chore – find something that works and fits into yours and your child’s lifestyle.”

8. Understand what your teen is dealing with

“Teens get a bad reputation when it comes to sleep, but they are tired and grumpy for a reason,” says Hannah.

“Our circadian rhythm controls our sleep/wake cycle and everyone’s slightly different. 

“For teenagers, this means they’ll go to bed later and wake up later.

“The school day, however, doesn’t account for this and teens will have to get up much earlier than they’re ready to, impacting their overall physical, mental and emotional health.

“It’s important that we allow teenagers to make up for this lack of sleep on the weekend, to soften the impact.”

Lindsay adds that children aged 14 to 17 years need between eight and 10 hours of sleep. 

9. Go outside

For teens especially, a shot of daylight can help get them in the swing of things.

“On a school day, a good tip to make sure a teen feels ready for the day is by incorporating morning daylight into their before-school routine,” says Hannah.

“Your body stops producing melatonin – the hormone that promotes sleep – in the morning light and it’ll help you feel more awake and ready for the day ahead.”

Just standing in the garden while eating some toast counts!

10. Keep the routine on track

Involving the kids and making them feel accountable and responsible will help.

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“Spending some time as a family discussing bedtimes and wake times, as well as when screens will be stopped, is a great start,” says Lindsay

“If everyone is on the same page, it makes sticking to the rules much easier.”

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