With children set to return to school over the next two weeks, experts have warned that the time spent at home during lockdown may have had a negative impact on sleep routines.
A recent sleep survey carried out by three sleep organisations(1) has revealed that COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on children’s sleep routines, with 57% of children waking up later than usual.
As parents across the UK prepare their kids for what could be a challenging first term, bed specialist Time4Sleep has been working with sleep expert Vicki Dawson, CEO of The Sleep Charity, to put together some top tips on how to get kids into a good bedtime routine.
Bring bedtime forward gradually
If the current sleep routine involves a very late night then it is crucial to start by slowly pulling bedtime forward to create a suitable routine. Vicki suggests: “If bedtime has got later and later, you need to start to gradually move your child’s bedtime forward by 15 minutes every three nights.”
By pulling this forward gradually, there is a better chance that your child will stick to it and be prepared for the new school term.
Create a soothing sleep environment
It is important that children associate their room with comfort, safety and relaxation in order to get a good night’s sleep. Jonathan Warren, director at Time4Sleep advises: “By allowing your child to have a say when it comes to various aspects of their bedroom decor you can ensure that they enjoy being in their room and find it to be a comforting space. Encourage them to choose their own bed that they’ll look forward to climbing into at the end of the day”
Aside from decor, it is also important to regulate the room temperature to maintain comfort whilst sleeping. Vicki adds: “Keep the bedroom at a comfortable temperature – around 18 degrees.” One way to maintain a comfortable temperature is through the use of a temperature-regulating mattress such as a gel memory foam mattress that reacts and adjusts to your body temperature.
Introduce a ‘no screen’ rule before bedtime
Staring at screens before bedtime can trick your body into thinking that it is daytime, causing you to stay awake due to the artificial blue light. To avoid blue light playing havoc with their body clock, Vicki warns: “Have them avoid screen activities an hour before bedtime as this can suppress the sleep hormone melatonin from being created.”
Why not swap screen time for a book and enjoy winding down together with a good story?
Consistency is key
By keeping a consistent wake up time you can regulate your child’s body clock to make sure they’re ready to be productive when they return to school. When it comes to keeping a consistent wake up time, Vicki suggests: “Open the curtains straight away, and if possible go outside for half an hour to help to reset your child’s body clock.”
You can make the morning routine exciting with fun and playful decor, so that the wake up call isn’t so daunting! Jason Peterkin, director at 247 Blinds comments: “Adding an element of fun and colour to a child’s room can be really impactful and will make the routine of waking up and going to sleep more interactive. For younger children, try educational prints such as world maps, safari animals seaside themes.”
Introducing these tips at least a week before children go back to school is advised as Vicki points out: “Children thrive on routine, they can also meet their full potential more easily when they have had a good night’s sleep. When children become sleep deprived, it can lead them to being hyperactive and tearful and they can find it difficult to concentrate in school.”