WORDS: Brooke Michell & Professor Sarah Blunden @ Sensible Sleep
If the summer holidays has resulted in a slip towards later bedtimes and morning sleep ins, now is the time to start adjusting in preparation for school next week!
Reset the body clock
Adolescents in particular have a natural tendency to go to sleep later and wake up later during school holidays, so the trick to resetting the body clock for any school children is to begin waking up and going to bed 15 minutes earlier.
Every couple of days move the wake up time and bedtime earlier by another 10-15 minutes until the target bed and wake times are reached.
It can be tricky to be disciplined about sticking to the new earlier times, so it may be helpful to use an alarm clock, or enlist the help of a parent.
Bright light in the AM, not the PM
To reinforce the new earlier wake times children should be exposed to bright light and sunshine as soon as they wake up, and this will help them to be alert.
And at night-time, children should avoid bright light’s and screens in the hour before bedtime (e.g. TV, phones, laptops) to allow the body time to produce melatonin, the sleepy hormone which helps you to fall asleep.
What about weekend sleep ins?
On weekends we recommend that despite the temptation, it is better to avoid sleeping in.
Sleeping in will disrupt the sleep routine and mean that the child won’t be tired enough at bedtime, resulting in a later bedtime on Sunday night, then waking up for school on Monday exhausted after not having enough sleep.
After school napping
Children needing an after school nap should sleep no longer than 20 minutes to avoid them entering a deeper sleep phase that will interfere with the nighttime sleep.