Early birds and night owls: sleep tips for children
With the summer holidays nearly over, we ask James Wilson, aka The Sleep Geek, for his tips on how to get kids back into a bedtime routine…
Sleep-wise, the start of the new school term can be a difficult time of year, transitioning from more relaxed sleep in the holidays to trying to reimplement a routine to make sure our little (and not so little) ones arrive at school bright eyed and bushy tailed. Here’s some tips to help your kids sleep better all year round.
Understand their sleep type
Are they an owl (late to bed, late to rise) a lark (early to bed, early to rise), or typical (somewhere in the middle). Ensure their bedtime matches their sleep type and remember as they move into their teenage years they are likely to become more night owlish in their behaviour and they will feel sleepier later. Forcing a teenager to go to bed earlier because we are tired or we think they need a certain amount of sleep will just leave them struggling to get to sleep, as their body is not yet ready. If your child is winding down but still taking more than 30 minutes to go to sleep, they may be going to bed too early. If you struggle to get them to bed without them dropping off and you don’t get chance to wind them down, it could be a little too late.
Ensure they are winding down before sleep
In the hour before bed, focus on activities that drop their heart rate and their core temperature. A lukewarm bath or shower is great for this, and think of activities that are focused and repetitive. Every child is different but suggestions like reading, playing a musical instrument, jigsaws, colouring in, threading beads, knitting, sewing and reading are all great. If watching TV, something funny, repetitive or light helps their mind to wander and for them to be ready for sleep.
Create a consistent wake-up time
One of the systems that manages sleep in our children’s body is sleep pressure. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed our bodies are counting down to sleep time. Sleep is like hydration. We build up a thirst for hydration and sleep pressure is thirst for sleep. A consistent wake-up time drives sleepiness at bedtime, creates better quality sleep and leaves our kids sleeping better and feeling better during the day. Lots of natural light exposure in the morning is also massively beneficial to our kids’ sleep so try and get them outside doing something fun in the morning.