Back to school after COVID-19-sleep tips
During the COVID-19 pandemic, difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep has been widely reported across the general population. A survey of 2,700 people in April gave the early warning signs about the long-term negative impact Coronavirus is having particularly on children’s sleep, with anxiety and lack of routine causing serious disruption. The survey found that 70% of children under 16 were going to bed later and waking later (57%) with 74% of parents reporting their children using electronic devices more during the Coronavirus lockdown.
At Millpond we have seen a 30 % rise in sleep inquiries from parents about children aged five to 13 compared with the same period in 2018-19.
You may recognise some of these common sleep issues in your child:
- falling asleep later
- difficulties falling asleep
- worries and anxieties surfacing at bedtime
- waking during the night
- vivid nightmares
- waking later in the morning
The causes of these sleep problems are many fold. They include your child or young person spending less time exercising and being outdoors, spending more time in front of screens (impacting melatonin production), using the bedroom for school work and studies, having no set wake up time or bed time and, understandably, increased levels of stress and worries about the future.
As the start of term rapidly approaches, many parents are telling us they are already dreading getting their child’s sleep on track and are not sure where to start. Fear no longer, we have a great set of tips ready to help so your child is all prepared for their 1st day back.
Reset your child’s sleep
For your primary school aged child:
At least a week before the new school term, start to put your child to bed earlier by 15 minutes every day.
- At the same time wake them 15 minutes earlier every morning.
- To help suppress their melatonin get them into the light as soon as possible in the morning.
- Repeat this pattern until you reach the time that is right for your child’s school schedule.
- Your child should be falling asleep within 15 – 20 minutes.
Help them to feel sleepy:
An hour before bed we recommend:
- Start thinking about your child’s bedtime 1 hour before you want them to be asleep.
- Put toys away and settle down for a cuddle, a snack and story on the sofa.
- ALL screens should be off 1 hour before sleep; this includes phones, tablets and computers as blue light can interfere with the production of melatonin.
- Lastly, in the hour before sleep don’t let your child have any caffeine or sugary food and drinks.
Their bedtime routine:
- Have a quiet and calm bedtime routine focused around the bedroom and bathroom area.
- Carry out the same series of steps every night so your child knows that sleep is coming. They will start to prepare for it as soon as you start the steps.
- An hour before sleep set aside 15 minutes of Talking Time. Give your child your 1:1 attention so they can chat to you about their day or any worries they might have. This will help to avoid discussing these issues just before your child goes to sleep.
- Then start go for a warm relaxing bath lasting about 10 minutes; a pre-bed bath should not be a play time.
- Go straight from the bathroom into the bedroom – do not go back into the living area.
- Pre-dim the lights in the bedroom – this will help with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin.
- Have 1 or 2 stories.
- Avoid any confrontations or discussions at bedtime.
- Say goodnight and leave the bedroom; your child should be asleep about 15 minutes later.
Reset your child’s morning clock:
Being back at school means an early morning start again for many families. Morning is when we reset our body clock so it’s very important children are woken at the same time each day. A big dose of light will help to get your child up and running, so open the curtains straightaway. Light suppresses melatonin – the hormone that makes us feel sleepy.
For your secondary school aged young person:
Due to a natural shift in the production time of melatonin, young people have a predisposition to go to bed later and stay up later. During lock-down their body clock may have shifted later by 2 hours or more. The process of bringing their sleep pattern back in line with the school day will take longer. Follow the same steps as above but start 2 weeks before their school start date.
More more details on teen sleep download our free fact sheet.