Back to School Sleep Tips

The arrival of September means summer is coming to a close (boo!) and it's time for the kids to go back to school. Our kids are starting Grade 6 and Grade 3 and I have to say, this summer has been different for us. I feel that we have reached a new milestone in our parenting journey. Our kids are learning independence! Being a work from home mom has always been a challenge during the summer months but this year, my kids have been able to entertain themselves when needed, they have found friends in the neighborhood that they run around and play with, I have a fantastic group of neighbor moms that come together to watch out for eachother, my kids understand that mama is on the phone and they know how to get their own snack (still working on healthy choices, 😏). It's been a different summer. I feel that I could keep them at home for a little longer this year. However, the routine that September and school brings is like a warm hug in our house. We love routine, ok, ok, I love routine and my family just follows along! Routine is so important when it comes to making the transition from summer fun to school fun.

These sleep tips apply to your entire family and will help make the transition back to school a little smoother in your house.

1. Naturally, the #1 sleep tip is ROUTINE! Having a warm and comforting bedtime routine is essential for children (and parents) when making transitions. Your house can be in total chaos but when it's time for the bedtime routine, everyone recognizes the time to calm and settle down. It becomes a signal for bedtime and children will welcome the routine as their downtime and preparation for sleep. The length of your routine should be age appropriate. The younger your child the shorter their routine. Older children can help to design their own bedtime routine. As parents you probably have a routine that you may or may not even recognize as your routine. I know for myself, I am unable to fall asleep if I don't read before turning off the light. It doesn't matter how much I read, sometimes it's only a page, but it has been my routine for as long as I can remember.

2. Be consistent with bedtime, even on the weekends. If your child has enjoyed late summer evenings playing outside or just going to bed a little later, you may need to slowly transition back to their age appropriate bedtime. It also depends on how adaptable your child is. Some kids are ready to fall asleep at the end of their routine no matter what time it is (my son) and some kids need a more gradual transition. A consistent bedtime helps to regulate their natural circadian rhythm so keeping the same bedtime on weekends will help with school nights (and mornings!). Same thing for parents, the temptation to stay awake and have some quiet time in the evening, watch 'just one more' episode on Netflix or read just one more chapter can seem like a good idea... until the next morning, when you realize you may cope better with life (and kids) when you keep to a consistent bedtime and routine for yourself.

3. Reserve time everyday to connect with your child. Evenings, dinner time and bedtime are great times to snuggle with your child and talk about their day. Change is hard for kids and starting a new grade, a new school and especially starting school for the first time, as exciting as it can be, can also be challenging for kids. When babies are newborns we talk about the importance of skin to skin snuggles because parents are a new baby's home base, their safe place, the place where they feel protected. This connection is created for life. When young children are upset they likely tell you or show you with their actions. As children get older their actions and their words become quieter. They begin to internalize their feelings and it may not be quite as obvious when they are upset or something is bothering them (pre-teen and teen mom's... am I right?!). Making connection part of your routine and intentionally setting this time aside will not only help your child with making the transition back to school but will also give them an opportunity to talk to you. You will always be their home base, their safe place where no one will protect them like their parent does. Keep that connection alive.

4. Limit the caffeine intake. This might seem obvious for kids but caffeine can be sneaky as well. It also really depends on your child's sensitivity to caffeine. Younger children will likely have a lower tolerance so this could mean reserving the KinderEgg for lunch on the weekend rather than as an after school treat. Your teen may be trying coffee, frappuccinos or energy drinks at home or at school. Parents will often resort to an extra coffee in the afternoon during these times of change but is it really helping? Would it serve you better to alter your own bedtime routine and ensure that you are protecting your own need for sleep by going to bed earlier? I know there are days when no matter how badly you want to go to bed at 9pm it's just not possible. Be kind to yourselves parents and if you need that extra coffee, enjoy it! (and maybe keep it small in order to preserve your sleep).

5. Recognize your child's need for extra sleep and downtime. Change is hard for kids and they will often need extra downtime on the weekends. TV and electronics can seem like downtime but they may also be very stimulating for your child. Again, it really depends on how sensitive your child is. Older children may be bothered by things they see on TV and may lose sleep to worry or bad dreams. Younger children are especially sensitive to the blue light emitted by the TV/tablet/computer/phone screen as a nervous system stimulant. Instead of planning fun weekends on the go in September, perhaps plan a family game night, lazy snuggles while you read on the couch or color together at the table. This is also a great time to connect with your child about their week at school. Younger children may even need an unexpected afternoon nap (ok, EVERYONE can benefit from an unexpected afternoon nap!!).

Wishing you all an easy transition back to school, restful nights and a wonderful school year to come 💕

If you need personalized, one on one support with sleep as you transition back to school please contact me for a Discovery Call to chat about your sleep needs.

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Melanie Pinet

IBCLC Lactation Consultant

Holistic Sleep Educator

Alberta, Canada