It has been a long six months of uncertainty, and I know from personal experience, the routine has gone out the window in all aspects within our household, but with the new school year on the horizon, it is time to get back on track and restore a sleep schedule.
Safefood Ireland along with the HSE and Healthy Ireland are now encouraging parents to kickstart a bedtime routine to help children adjust to the new school year as part of their START campaign following new research with staggering findings.
Findings from the survey showed that since the start of COVID-19, 43% of children are going to bed later while 44% are waking later each morning. It also discovered 60% of parents expressed concern about getting their children back into a school routine.
Consistent sleep patterns help assist your child in regulating all aspects of their life, including their energy, emotions, physical activity and even their appetite. It also plays a significant role in their cognitive function, everything from their memory, concentration and focus, which can all be compromised on little sleep. Think of it as a recharging process. If they aren’t fully charged, it will have adverse effects on their day, health and wellbeing.
If you’re looking to restore a good sleep and bedtime routine, follow these simple steps to help make the transition a little easier:
- First and foremost, know how much sleep your child needs based on their age. For example, the recommended guide for children aged 3-5 is 10-13 hours sleep, children aged 6-13 should be sleeping 10-13 hours while teenagers need roughly 8-10 hours sleep a night.
- Secondly, what are they eating? How is their diet? Certain foods can have a significant impact on your quality of sleep. Encourage at least two litres of water a day, plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables and slow-release carbs such as eggs, porridge and whole grains.
- Next look at their energy levels and how much exercise they get throughout the day. Children should be active, out playing with their friends having fun, swimming or on their bike. Physical activity should be a priority for their overall wellbeing, but it also wears them out, in turn helping them sleep better at night.
- Is their room a sleep sanctuary or a cluttered mess? Use the last few days of the holidays to turn their bedroom into the perfect sleep environment free from mess and stress. You could even try to create a safe space, a little snug in their room with cosy pillows and fleece blankets and encourage relaxation skills such as breathing exercises.
- During lockdown 67% of parents admitted their children were engaging in more screen time than ever. Kick the habit to the kerb and remove technology an hour or two before bedtime. Unbeknownst to many, electronics emit a blue light which tricks the mind into thinking it’s daytime making it harder for little to sleep.
- Make bedtime a habit and be consistent. If you have children in different age groups, keep their bedtime as close as possible, so one doesn’t feel left out. Try to get everyone to take part in the bedtime ritual of winding down, getting ready and brushing their teeth. Then allow the older ones to chill in their room, listen to music or read a book until it is time to turn off the lights.
- And finally, between now and the first day of school, start reducing your child’s bedtime, so it is not a shock to the system. Some kids may resist, but with a gradual process, it will be easier to adjust. Tonight start moving their bedtime earlier by ten or twenty minutes until you reach an appropriate time.