Let's face it; no three words strike fear into the heart of children and teenagers faster than 'Back To School'. And with the UK summer school holidays now officially halfway through, the countdown until the start of the new school term has well and truly begun. With the first wave of primary and secondary school students due to head back in just under three weeks time (much to some parent's relief).
How children face going back to school
While some children will accept that school is a fact of life and ease back into a new routine easily. For others, the transition from six weeks worth of downtime to getting up early again is much harder to make. Even more so if usual rules and bedtime routines have been allowed to slip over summer. In which case it's likely you'll need to spend some time retraining your child to go to sleep, and wake up, at specific times again. But it's not just an aversion to mornings that make some children dread going back to school. The idea of school itself can trigger feelings of anxiety as the new term creeps ever closer. Particularly if your child is starting a new school, entering an exam year, or has a history of school related difficulties. Not to mention anxiety in children is commonly triggered by sudden changes in routine. Such as having to revert to a schedule after an extended break.
Help your child transition back to school
Fortunately, as a parent there are a number of things you can do in the lead- up to term time to help your child transition back to school smoothly. Including relieving any growing fears or anxieties your child might be feeling about the school holiday ending. As well as getting them into a sleep cycle in plenty of time before the new term starts.
1. Start sleep training a week ahead of school
One of the hardest things about the first morning back to school is that alarm bell cutting through your sleep and waking you up. As we know sleep is a restorative process, and in school age children especially it's vital to get at least 10-13 hours of good quality sleep every night. In a good night you'll go through at least 5-6 sleep cycles. With each cycle lasting approximately 90 minutes. During this time your body will transition from light sleep to REM, the stage in which you dream. Ideally you want to wake up during the light sleeping stage, when you're naturally drifting in and out of wakefulness. Minimising any feelings of grogginess. The best way to get back into a good pattern of sleep behaviour is by sleep training your child at least a week ahead of the date they start back at school. Making sure to keep this routine in place over the weekend too. By starting sleep training in advance you can gradually alter your child's bedtime and morning alarm call. Until you get to the schedule he or she will need to stick to when school starts up again. Thereby eliminating any big shocks the first morning back to school, and ensuring your child gets the good quality 10-13 hours they need to be alert and focussed during lessons.
2. Establish a pre-bedtime routine
Sleep deprivation in general is on the rise, largely owing to the lifestyle habits we've adopted in modern day Britain. Electronic devices such as mobile phones, tablets and televisions all emit light, which can have a confusing effect on our brain. Disrupting our ability to get to sleep at night. Particularly when these devices are used too close to bedtime. If your child struggles to get to sleep in the evenings, you may need to limit the amount of time he or she spends using stimulating electronic equipment before bed. Even watching TV with the lights off is enough to keep your brain active and engaged - the opposite of what you need to unwind and relax.
At least an hour before bedtime make sure your children stop using their mobile phone, computers, TV and any other electronic devices. This will give their brain time to calm down before its time to go sleep. Running your children a warm bath in the evening is another great way to get them to feel sleepy before bed too. A soak in the tub for at least 20 minutes will help lower the heart rate, and induce a natural feeling of relaxation. Try to avoid using any bright lights during this time, and once they're out of the bath get them dressed in clean PJs. Ideally in a natural material such as cotton, which helps skin to breathe and regulates body temperature overnight. By this stage your children should be feeling sleepy, so this is a good time to put them to bed and say goodnight. Ensuring that no electronic devices have managed to sneak their way into the room before you leave.
3. Address back to school anxiety head-on
After a long break period from school it's only natural your child might feel somewhat anxious about returning to their pre-holiday routine. Especially since school isn't typically a favourite place for most children. These fears are usually heightened in students who are beginning a new school after the long 6-weeks off. The fear of the 'unknown' and change in what's familiar being common catalysts for anxiety in this situation. It's important to address any nerves your child is expressing about returning to school, and not expect these to naturally melt away on their own. Some children may not naturally discuss their feelings, and so may take a little coaxing before they open up. If you're unsure whether your child is feeling anxiety, look for changes in their usual behaviour. Difficulty sleeping is one of the most common indicators of anxiety in children. But other tell-tale signs include moody outbursts, sullenness or a loss of appetite. Talking to your child about their feelings can help to reassure them, as can simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises. Children of all ages also find routine reassuring. So establishing one, in the ways we've described above, can also help to keep anxiety at bay.
Your hero products in the battle against anxiety and sleeplessness
At We Sell Sleep our sleep therapies aren't just for restless adults. We also sell a range of natural products that are child-friendly too. Perfect for sleep-resistant little ones or those feeling a touch of anxiety about the upcoming school year. Here are just a handful of the top ones we recommend.
Available in three magical scents (Unicorn, Space and Deep Sea) Dream Spray is specially formulated for children and can be sprayed directly onto pyjamas and bedclothes. The natural essential oils contained within each spray help to quell anxiety and fear, as well as encourage pleasant dreams. Helping children get to sleep, and enjoy a good nights sleep, for longer.
This natural remedy contains heady lavender, camomile and sandalwood, which help children to relax and feel soothed. Just a little rubbed on the temples, face or neck is enough to stimulate sleep and help them drift off. Best of all, the ingredients are 100% natural and organic. So they're ideal even for sensitive skin. The balm is available in a 21g size.
This herbal bath concoction consists of an active combination of valerian and hops, both of which are proven to help bring about deep sleep. In fact, their calming properties have been helping to relieve restlessness for centuries. Just add a capful of the solution to a full bath while the water is running and then let your child soak for around 20 minutes. Ideally just before bedtime. Or use the bath salts from Kneipp it makes the bath water blue! Kids loves this!
We also offer a range of sound and light solutions designed to aid good sleep, in addition to a wider selection of sprays, (not to foget the Bach Rescue Night Dropper £7.50) essential oils, and salts. All of which can be found here at our online shop.