I just want to start off by saying…whatever happened with routines and bedtime this summer, I hope you at least had a great time 😉
During our too-short summer months, we have a way of letting our routines become flexible and for bedtime to become later and later.
“But mom, it’s not even dark outside!” – every child ever
Our daylight hours have a LOT to do with our body’s natural production of melatonin. Here in Northern Alberta, we have daylight from 5am-11:30pm all summer long. 6.5 hours is not enough rest for our little kiddies, and especially not enough rest for us.
Believe me, I GET IT. I want to be out enjoying the warmth and sunshine just as much as you. And I did.
And now I have some sleep stuff to fix within my own household lol.
So as the summer comes to an end (sadly) and you look back on the fun & sunny memories made, the barbecues, the camping, all of that ice cream – so much ice cream….it also means that with this sunny finale, you need to get your children back into some sort of routine so that the night before their first day back to school isn’t a nightmare.
So what should you do? How do you get back on track?
You don’t. You’re hooped.
- Don’t wait until the night before school starts to try to implement your old routine. the excitement of the new year and the anticipation of seeing their friends will make things too difficult to have everyone in bed and sleeping by 8pm. SO START NOW with early bedtime.
- Give yourself 2 weeks to slowly move bedtime back to the usual time. If your kids have been going to bed around 9:30pm every night this summer, then start by moving bedtime up by 15-20 minutes for 3 days, etc. This way, by the time school starts, your child’s internal body clock will be adjusted to the school time.
- Bedtime should be anywhere between 7-8pm. This is true for pre-school, school aged, and adolescents. If YOU need to be your child’s alarm clock in the morning, then that means they are going to bed too late. If your child is going to bed early enough, there will eventually be no need for an alarm clock as their internal body clock will be set to wake. Putting your child to bed at the same time every night helps teach their bodies the appropriate amount of sleep needed during those night-time hours, so they can wake feeling refreshed and energized.
- Let them help! Let’s get those kids involved. You could even make a bedtime routine chart that includes the steps to their routine, so they feel in charge of it. Some good routine activities can include (but are not limited to): a bath, getting pjs on, reading a story, singing a favourite song, a light snack (nothing sugary or caffeinated), 3 good things about their day, a warm glass of milk, etc.
The reason routines are SO IMPORTANT is because they act as a cueing mechanism for your child’s body and brain. It lets them know that sleep is near. Once you do decide on an appropriate routine, it should be in the same order every night, as to not confused your child. A good routine length is between 30-45 minutes. Setting a timer can be helpful to ensure you don’t get distracted.
- NO screen time within an hour of sleep. Playing video games, or watching Youtube on the iPad/TV right before bed has been linked to an increase in the amount of time it takes a child to wind down and fall asleep. These activities should be stopped at least an hour before bed, ideally 2 hours.
- Make sure their room is dark enough. The level of darkness really plays a role in the amount of melatonin produced. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you), your child’s room should be anywhere from an 8-10. The darkness will help with the transition back to school, with both the morning and the night. The early rising sun plays a huge role in waking us up too early, so the use of blackout blinds are very helpful.
If you would like some printable bedtime routine charts or other “kid friendly” facts about sleep, check out www.sleepforkids.org
If you have any other questions about getting back into routine, or have any sleep-related concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.