Have you ever heard of the “summer slide”? It’s the term given to the idea that students lose some of their academic skills over the summer.
But when it comes to sleep, children experience a different kind of summer slide. One that involves later nights, a more fluid routine and less sleep overall.
As we enter the new school year, it’s important that our children are refreshed, rested and ready to tackle the year ahead. Here are some tips to get your little scholar’s sleep back on track.
Wind Down Routine
The first step is to create a relaxing pre-sleep routine that is easily repeatable. This wind down routine helps your child’s body gear down, cue their brain to release the sleep hormones, and set the stage for sleep.
Depending on the age of your child, their wind down routine may include;
- a warm bath,
- bed time stretches or yoga,
- reading books,
- writing in a journal
- cuddles with a parent
Whatever you and your child choose, you want to repeat a variation of it each night. This creates a cue for the brain and helps the body to relax quickly and settle down for a good night’s sleep.
The Right Time for Bedtime
Children under the age of 6 can require up 12 hours of sleep each night. However, if they are going to bed too late and waking up early for school, they will miss out on precious hours each night. This can leave kids overtired, and unable to fulfil their full learning potential. To conquer this, make sure your child is getting the right amount of sleep each night in the days and weeks leading up to the beginning of school.
To do this, you need to look at when they will need to be awake each morning and count backwards from there.
For instance, if your child must be awake by 7:00am in order to get to preschool or the bus stop in time, count backwards the amount of hours they need to get a full rest. That is when bedtime needs to be placed.
So if they on average sleep 11 hours at night, with a 7:00am wake up time, they need to be asleep by 8:00pm.
If bedtime has been later or, morning wake up will need to be earlier than it is now, you can start adjusting their routine ahead of time. This gives their internal body clock time to adjust gradually.
Add Sleep to the Shopping List
If you’re like me and excited to purchase the back-to-school supplies, be sure to add sleep supplies to that list. We want our young students to get the most restful sleep possible and that means being comfortable and cozy.
New pajamas, sheets, pillows, are always a special treat. But don’t forget to shop for their sleep environment too. Black out blinds to help with early bedtimes and morning wake ups are important, as well as white noise machines to mask the noises from the older siblings, family pets or street traffic.
If you’re creating a new wind down routine as mentioned previously, this is also the time to find a special journal to write in, or new books that can become old favourites.
Be Mindful of After School Activities
Now this tip isn’t necessarily for the time before school starts, but after. Starting school, for anyone, especially those in preschool, kindergarten or full-time days, is a huge adjustment. Not only emotionally, but physically. Children often need more sleep in the first few months as their body adjusts to these big changes.
Therefore when registering them for after school activities, be mindful of this. Consider when these start and end as well as the driving time involved.
If they mean your little one will be getting to bed later on a week night, you may want to consider doing a weekend activity instead or, doing it in the spring once they have adjusted.
As much as we want our children to be well-rounded and have a multitude of experiences, they won’t enjoy them if they’re exhausted. More importantly, not getting enough sleep will also hinder their focus, attention and behaviour at school.
We all enjoyed the lazy-hazy days of summer, but now it’s time to get back into a regular routine. Don’t worry if the summer slide hit your household. By following the tips above, your children be ready for the school year ahead-bright-eyed and well-rested.