Sleep Easy

sleepy child

Lucy Shrimpton, aka ‘The Sleep Nanny’ is one of the world’s leading child sleep consultants. Here she shares her advice on how to get your little ones sleeping easy when starting school.

Some children start school when they are just about to see their fifth birthday, while others have only just turned four, and in many cases there is a huge difference in that year.

Whether your child is one of the older ones or the younger ones, whether they are used to a nine-hour day at pre-school or have spent their life so far at home with a parent and even though the first school year is very gentle and play-based, it is still highly likely that the milestone of starting school, the changes in routine and the mental and emotional development, will leave your little one feeling more tired than usual for at least the first term or two!

I have some tips for you for how to help your little school starter cope during this time and avoid going down the path of getting overtired.

  • Bring bedtime forward thirty minutes to an hour earlier for the first few weeks as it is likely they will be tired and ready to go sleep sooner than usual.
  • Start the day with a good breakfast to help energy levels
  • Send a bottle of water in to school with your child to help them stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to fatigue.
  • Plan to have some fairly restful weekends to allow your child to relax and let them take a nap on weekend days if they want to. Catching up on rest at the weekend will re-energise and prepare them for the week ahead.
  • If your child is really exhausted, talk to their teacher about allowing a quiet area for a nap in the afternoon. Many schools will accommodate this in the first year with the little ones.

If you notice your child’s night sleep deteriorating or it becomes a battle to settle him at bedtime or early rising starts creeping in, these are all signs of over tiredness so go through the tips and see if there are any that you are not doing that might help.

Confusional arousals (or night terrors) are another sign of being overtired. If your child has episodes of anger or thrashing about in bed and when you go to them they look awake but look through you rather than at you and does not appear entirely ‘with it’, this is a confusional arousal. It is not often possible to console a child who is having one of these so you just have to allow it to pass. Don’t worry; they will have no memory of it in the morning. Look at ways you can help alleviate some of this over tiredness.

If your child sleeps in a little late at the weekend, let them! They need to catch up on some sleep. I don’t know many parents who find this difficult to implement!

It is also worth being aware of the additional emotional development that your child is going through. Perhaps choose your battles at home and be extra patient. They may express some emotion in unexpected ways, so try talking it through and helping him to process it and express it rather than tell them off.