It’s the holy grail that all parents seek: SLEEP! Expert, Rosey Davidson offers advice on how to get back to normal bedtimes after an extraordinary year.
As the kids go back to school, we’re all hoping they’ll go back to sleep! 2020 has certainly been a year of challenges for most families. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the sleep of our nation. Children are no exception. Increased screen time, later bedtimes, increased anxiety, time away from friends and normal support networks… the list goes on.
During the pandemic research tells us that there has been a significant shift in bedtimes and morning wake times – 70% of children under 16 are going to bed later (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, ref: Sleep Council). The result of this is that it is harder than ever to transition to a ‘normal’ routine at the start of the school year.
Screen time has played such a big role in home schooling, but this heavy reliance on technology can have a devastating effect on sleep. Lots of exposure to blue and white light from devices can affect our drive to sleep and our production of melatonin (our sleep hormone). Essentially this means, the more screen time we have, the less sleepy we feel!
While it is quite normal for children to go to bed a little later during summer holidays, for many parents that bedtime/wake time has shifted far further than usual. Fear not though, there are positive steps that we can take to make the transition back to school a little easier…
My top tips to improving sleep habits.
- Make sure that you and your child get exposure to morning light – this is really valuable for our internal body clocks. Get outside for some fresh air early in the day.
- Cut screen time before bed – 1-2 hours of screen free time will really help you and your little ones to switch off.
- If your child uses a reading light in bed opt for an amber light – this is far less disruptive that blue/white lights.
- Ideally try to keep homework and other activities out of the bedroom – reserve it for sleeping only if possible. If not then perhaps put a screen across the room to cover the desk/workspace at night. This is important for your child to learn to switch off.
- Stick to a calm, consistent bedtime routine. Bath, story/or chat, cuddle and lights out. Children thrive on having clear boundaries. If your child is resisting bedtime I really like to create a bedtime poster together – detailing all of the steps towards bedtime and teaching them about the positive benefits of sleep to their bodies.
- If your child is anxious about returning to school and struggling to sleep, some simple mindfulness techniques can be helpful. Deep breath in and out, focusing on the breath and movement of the tummy can really help.
Prioritising your sleep and that of your child’s is not decadent. It will improve concentration, mood, support immune system, help maintain a healthy weight and more. Most of all, a well-rested child is a child ready to learn and embrace the new normal.
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