While longer-than-normal sleep ins and a-bit-more-than-usual access to the Playstation has been a wonderful part of the holidays for most children, the looming school term means parents need to think about resetting those little body clocks so they are primed for the start of the school year.
Holidays can induce jet-lag-like symptoms in children as well as in adults, brought on by late nights, sleep-ins, afternoon naps and overseas travel for some. Luckily, just like with jet lag, there are plenty of easy interventions that can help reset little bodies and re-establish a healthy rhythm.
Sydney sleep coach Cheryl Fingleson offers some great tips on how to achieve this.
“It can take three to four days to set up a good sleep schedule so I advise all parents to start a week or so before school goes back, and to be patient with their children as this is not always a smooth process,” Cheryl says.
Rise with the light
It’s important to use nature’s built in cues. Go into the children’s bedrooms in the early morning and open the drapes or blinds to let in the early sunlight. If it’s practical, outdoor exercise on a sunny morning is an optimum way to get the day started.
Slow down at night
The opposite applies at night. Use the darkness to let children’s bodies know that it is time to wind down. Switch off the TV and games at least an hour before bed, if not sooner. Allow children to bath at leisure, read alone or together, and put them to bed in a dark, cool, quiet room.
Re-establish regular bed times
For the first few nights after a holiday it may still be hard to go to sleep and wake up at the optimum times. But it’s important for parents to enforce a regular bed and wakeup time, similar to the one they use in the school term.
Ban the afternoon nap
In the post-holiday adjustment period, taking naps may actually leave children quite groggy and disoriented. Try to keep children awake through outside play, craft, an afternoon swim or a story.
Clear up the bedroom clutter
It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the child’s sleep environment. Clear any holiday clutter including lingering Christmas presents and strewn clothing. A tidy bedroom is more conducive to relaxation, a bed that has been well-made will be more comfortable, and the lack of piles of toys and books will help alleviate any underlying anxieties.
Eat well, eat together
Healthy, regular meals are a great bonding and balancing tool. You can also encourage quiet baths, essential oils, meditation or solitary reading, especially since we all know that rejuvenation involves a lot more than just sleep. As the school year approaches, one of the best gifts we can give these young people is a rested, prepared and energised state of mind.
Set a good example
It’s not just the children who need to recalibrate after the holidays. Set the tone in the home by modelling wellness and embracing good sleep habits as part of your post-holiday resolutions.
By employing some or all of these techniques, people both big and small will notice a healthy change in their sleep quality and they should be able to return to regular work and school patterns quite quickly.