Getting back on track for the academic year

Getting back on track can be both welcome and overwhelming but for many of you it must occur.

A recent survey suggested that because of summer holidays almost 50% of children were now going to bed later and waking later as well. This adjustment back into routine can be hard and ensuring that our children are getting enough sleep is also an important task too.

Adequate sleep is important for children to be receptive to learning; helping to develop increased concentration amounts and higher levels of motivation and lower levels of negative thought sequences. They will potentially process and retain information more quickly and be able to socialise and communicate with others better too. It is also found that sleeping better improves appetite regulation as well.

The amount of sleep that your child requires becomes slightly more defined as they get older, and they lose their nap-need and their entire quota for sleep is made up on overnight sleep. Of course many children will need more-some less, but I encourage families to “aim” somewhere in the recommended bandwidth so that you have something to work within and then judge yourself if by their mood, behaviour and eating patterns if they seem at their personal best.

Pre-school: 3-5 years-10-13 hours

School age 6-13 years- 9-11 hours

Teen 14-17 years-8-10 hours


If your child is 3 or older and still has a preference to nap then don’t worry, although many of their peers will not nap, many still will and if nap does not interfere with bedtime or overnight sleep then continue if they show a nap requirement.  If in any doubt, see my content titled is your child done their nap.

  • Regular wake and bedtime help to re-enforce positive sleep practises.  Attending school or pre-school often determines an early start time anyway and many children wake early themselves. To help promote a healthy sleep cycle then waking no later than 730am- 7 days a week can help regulate the bedtime and overnight sleep phase too. It may be necessary for those who are finding the adjustment really challenging to ensure the weekend is also early wake and early bed – until the rhythm is established and your child appears well rested each morning ….
  • If the current wake and bedtime are significantly different -as soon as you can now- wake 15-30m earlier each morning and bring bedtime forward by the corresponding amount- there is no point doing an earlier bedtime unless the wake time is also adjusted creating enough “wake time” to encourage sleep with relative ease.
  • Using bright and natural light to signal to the brain it is wake and start time is positive and ensuring that there is enough wake time to support going asleep well at bedtime.  In turn using dim lights towards the start of bedtime can help to send the right message and promote the sleep hormone melatonin, together with the cocktail of hormones that help invite sleep with ease.
  • How we spend our wake hours also has implications- reports of increased screen time during the last few months- now may need to be addressed and avoided especially 1-2 hours before bedtime.  Too much screen time may impair the brains ability to go to sleep with ease and/ or it may decrease the level of deep and restoring sleep that is achieved too.   
  • Plenty of fresh air and outside activity- but be careful not to oversubscribe as children do need down-time too.  Being on the go all day, every day can actually make it harder to relax come sleep time-a healthy blend of both is encouraged.
  • Increased junk food has also been reported during the summer period- now eliminating high sugar, processed food as necessary and encouraging eating at regular intervals and at more or less the same time every day-also helps to regulate the biological time clock that underpins sleep responsiveness.  School and pre-schools will have this in place so follow with this on the weekends and now promote a dinner time that happens at the same time every night and then you can also begin to establish a pre-sleep ritual that encourages falling asleep with greater ease.
  • Establishing a bedtime routine in the room where your child sleeps -20-30 minutes before you would like them to start going to sleep may be considered the cornerstone to positive sleep practices. This time is best spent in a dimmed environment, in a space that you create in the bedroom, separate to the bed itself.  This is a wonderful connecting opportunity to integrate into a busy household.  Spend time reading, chatting, playing with your child as you prepare them for sleep.  Once the lights go out, either with or without your input your child will start to go to sleep-it may be helpful to look at teaching them breathing and relaxing exercises that can help to quiet them further and allow peaceful and rested sleep to emerge.
  • If your child is overly anxious, it is typically at bedtime that many fear are expressed- consider adding extra time to the bedtime routine to allow for this dialogue; encourage them to talk about the worries by day too- it may help to write the worries down and throw them away- offer positive solutions to concerns and just allowing them to feel heard and seen can be enough- journaling and mindful reflection can also help.

Of course, this can take some time to establish and some of you will benefit from applying my stay and support approach to further increase their sleep ability both at bedtime and overnight, but as we head into this season, we are presented with a perfect opportunity to effect change.

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