Sleep And Starting School

Blog - Sleep and Starting School What To Expect

It’s that time of year when the Summer holidays are coming to an end, the days are starting to get shorter, evenings darker and our little ones are heading off to school.

Maybe it’s the big transition from childminder/nursery into primary school, or maybe its from one year into the next with new teachers to meet and different classrooms to get used to.

Even for the most chilled and adaptable children it can have an impact on their behavior and of course their sleep.

What To Expect From Your New Preschooler

Another Level of Tiredness

Your child is dealing with a LOT of new things, a new routine, new people and lots of exciting interesting new things to learn. They will probably be more tired than you expected. 

With this may come tantrums, diva strops, and emotional meltdowns. Try to be patient.

Don’t pack every afternoon full of after school activities. Your child needs to rest too, it’s good for their brain!

An increase in ‘problem’ behaviour

‘After-school restraint collapse’ is a term by Andrea Loewen Nair which describes how some children ‘let go’ of their emotions after holding onto them all day at school.

Your child might be whiny, disrespectful or upset and crying, even angry and these feelings come out at home because that’s where they feel safe to let them go.

Giving them time to wind down from their day and calm from potential over stimulation can help to avoid flare ups. 

Bedtime Battles

For many children, starting school, meeting new friends, making connections with new teachers can be stressful (positive stress in most cases) however it can affect bedtimes. 

It’s common that children will start to say they are scared of the dark, or have more bad dreams because they are feeling anxious. 

This is where a good consistent bedtime routine is helpful. Build in time for chatting about the day, what will happen tomorrow or doing some relaxation or breathing exercises to calm busy minds the Insight Timer app is a great resource for tracks that will help children to wind down. 

If your child is scared of the dark, you can try a night light – make sure its red light only as this doesn’t affect that lovely sleep hormone melatonin. I use these in my kid’s rooms.

They Did ‘Nothing’ Today

I know you are finding this transition tough too, and are DESPERATE to see them again and hear all about their fabulous new lives, but don’t be surprised if the only answer you get when you ask ‘What did youdo today?’ is ‘Nothing’!

Firtsly i can assure you that they didn’t do ‘nothing’, they have been stimulated, exercised and educatedfor hours, but probably the last thing they want to do is recount it all for you a soon as you pick them up.

Try to focus on reconnecting with them first ‘Hi honey I missed you today, I hope you had a great day!’ . Give them time to decompress, you can ask them some better questions later on such as “Did anyone help you today?” or “What was the hardest rule to follow today” (loads more great ideas here)

How Can You Help?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, your preschooler (aged 3-5 years) needs between 10 and 13 hours of sleep in 24, poor sleep is linked to daytime sleepiness which affects behaviour and concentration which in the long term can affect their educational milestones.

What can you do to support your little one in this big transition?

  • Make time in your evenings for connection. They have been separate from you all day, giving them some of your time 1:1 fills up their love tank, reminds them they are loved and improves how they feel about themselves and, in-turn their behaviour.
  • Don’t fill every day with after school activities, have a balance between opportunity for exercise and learning but also time to rest 
  • Make sure they have enough to eat and drink, hunger and dehydration can add to those tricky behavioural issues
  • I know you’re excited to hear, but try to avoid bombarding them with questions about their day. Give them time to switch off first, but don’t be disheartened if the only answer you get is ‘nothing’ when you ask what they did today!
  • Help them to relax and wind down before bed. This might mean avoiding stimulating TV in the hour or two before bedtime. 
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine of around 45 minutes (including practical activities like brushing teeth and connection activities like reading stories and talking)
  • Avoid weekend lie ins – this can mess up the circadian rhythm so it’s best to keep your routine similar every day (give or take half an hour)
  • Try a red light night light to alleviate any fear of the dark
  • Try some breathing exercises/meditation tracks to calm busy minds