Getting ‘Sleep Ready’ To Start School
Starting school is such a huge milestone in your little one’s life. Making sure they are well prepared and well set up for this big step is really important, and goes beyond a new school uniform and pencil case.
The Importance Of Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important for little ones, especially when there is a lot of learning, developing and growing to do.
It is only during the deep phase of sleep that the growth hormone is secreted, together with the hormone that tells you little one whether they are full or hungry.
Our immune system needs sleep in order to produce proteins to fight infection; vitally important when your little one goes to school and picks up all those new bugs that they have not yet become exposed to.
Sleep is vital for your child’s development too. If your little one does not sleep well, the brain cannot ‘press save’ on what they learned that day. Although this is vital for babies as they are developing skills, it becomes even more important for children at school. If they are not able to ‘press save’ on what they learned that day they really will struggle, especially in the early days of starting school as there is so much to take in.
To illustrate this; we can look at a 2017 BBC Panorama study where school age children slept one hour more per night for a week. The results showed that their problem-solving ability increased by 66%, their attention and focus by 44% and the memory test results showed an improvement of 57%.
Top Tips To Help A Child Sleep
So, we know why children need sleep but how do we ensure we do this?
- Making sure you know how much sleep your little one needs is really important. A reception age child, between 3 and 5 years of age, needs around 10 to 13 hours sleep in 24 hours. We would suggest not treating anything before 6 am as morning so making sure you count backwards from when they wake up in the morning to set up the right bedtime for them is very important. Popping your little one to bed too late (or too early) can really impact their sleep.
- A bedtime routine can be really helpful for children at school. Make sure this includes some quiet and relaxing time before bed, perhaps with a little snack. You could consider using some ideas from the Relax Kids website or a journal like ‘My Happy Self’ journal, within the bedtime routine.
- A bath or shower will also help your little one wind down and relax, together with the benefits of their body temperature dropping once they are out of the bath or shower and this will help them sleep too.
- Ensure you avoid sugary foods or drinks before bedtime. This means any sugary snacks or even hot chocolate need to be avoided in a couple of hours before bed. Instead you could try a banana, some natural yoghurt or a bowl of (low sugar) cereal if your little one wants a snack before bed.
- Making sure your child’s bedroom environment is as dark as possible but also that it is calm and relaxing. Having a lot of toys or a lot of distractions in the bedroom will make it harder for them to switch off and go to sleep. Make sure you do not start school reading practice or doing any homework around bedtime either as this will mean their little brains have to start working hard just as we are wanting them to calm down.
- During the day make sure that there is plenty of exercise and running around. This is especially important during the winter as they may not have a lot of outside ‘break time’ at school so making sure that they have a little time outside when they get home will also help with sleep.
- Spending some one-to-one time with you each day will be really beneficial to your little one and will also ensure that their ‘attention cup’ is full and they are not looking for attention of a night.
- Finally, be on the lookout for any sleep disorders. Generally, children should wake naturally most of the time, so if you were having to wake them, but you believe they are getting the right amount of sleep, speak to your GP.
Thank you to Jenna for from Little Dreams Consulting for this really helpful guest blog post! If your little one is having trouble sleeping and you would like to solve your child's sleep problems, Little Dreams Consulting work with babies and school children up to the age of 10 so just email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a free (and absolutely no obligation) chat to talk about working together and answer any questions you have.
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