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Written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
27 June 2020

Getting Back into a Routine after School holidays

Most of us want to get as much joy and time together as you can out of the school holidays. As such, keeping a regular bedtime or routine might not have been the number one goal during this time.

That's okay, and let's not worry about what took place over the holidays. Now, your mission is to get your child ready to go back to sleep at a normal time the night before school starts again.

So let's get started. When should your children go to sleep? Parents are often taken aback when I tell them that I suggest between 7 and 8 p.m. They are even more surprised when I say that I think they should keep that bedtime for their child until he or she is about 12 years old.

Why do I recommend a bedtime by 8pm?

Firstly, most children need at least 10 hours of sleep a night to function at their optimal level. No matter what, if your child needs to be up by 7am for school/daycare, they should be asleep by 9pm at the latest. When you take into account how long it takes them to fall asleep once they're in bed and how often they ask for a glass of water or say they need to go to the bathroom half an hour after you close their door, 8 p.m. is about the latest they can go to bed and still get enough sleep.

Furthermore, you as parents need to spend a few hours a day without your child. You need to be able to watch TV, eat junk food without worrying about being seen, do grown-up things, and get your parenting batteries charged up. It's important for your mental health, and relationship with your partner and your kids.

Now that we know when to put our kids to bed, let's talk about how, which is a much harder question.

  1. Work toward it gradually

The best way to get back on track is to do things gradually. If they've been going to bed around 9 p.m. for most of their vacation, try moving bedtime up by 15 minutes every four days until you're back to their normal bedtime. If you have to change the clocks in their room to do this, go ahead. The end really does sometimes justify the means.

2. Set up a routine for going to bed

If you had a good bedtime routine before the school break messed everything up, try to get back to it as much as you can. Trying something new will be harder and take longer for your child to get used to than doing something they are used to.

However if this is your first time trying to set up a bedtime routine, let me just say how much easier your life can be if you have a regular bedtime routine. When things like baths, stories, brushing teeth, and putting on pyjamas are done in the same order and at the same time every night, your child's body and brain start making more melatonin, which makes it easier for them to fall asleep. I really can't say enough good things about bedtime routines.

3. No screens

We also tend to be less strict about TV, video games, and other screen time in the hours before bedtime. This is similar to how we don't really enforce bedtimes during the holidays. Since there's no homework, we might be able to let them watch an extra episode of their favourite show.

Screens, like phones, TVs, computers, and tablets, give off a lot of blue light. This lowers melatonin (our sleep hormone) levels and increases cortisol (our "caffeine" hormone), making it harder for us to settle to sleep at bedtime.

When it is sleep time, turn out the lights. The darker the better, as darkness promotes melatonin production. If your child is afraid of the dark, use a dim orange/red night light as this reduces melatonin levels the least.

One last thing. Letting your child stay up a little later than usual can all of a sudden turn him/her into an amazing lawyer. Arguments about why they should be allowed to stay up later are likely to be heard for at least a few days and possibly for the next eight or ten years. Parenting isn't a democracy, which is a good thing. It is a wonderful dictatorship where all the rules are made by "Her Highness, the Mama." Don't give into the pressure, because, as I said before, this 8 p.m. bedtime is here to stay for a while. The sooner they realise that this is the norm and that holidays are an exception, the easier it will be for you and them to get to bed on time.

And the best gift you can give your children to help them start the new school year with a better attitude and a more positive outlook, is that of being well-rested. This is true no matter what year level they're going into. They will be happier, more outgoing and ready to learn.

Article written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Based in Singapore
Trained in the Sleep Sense Program

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