Ahead of the new school term, sleep expert Chireal Shallow chatted to us about what parents can do during the day to help children settle into a stress-free evening routine.
You may be full swing into school mode already, but as most of us prepare for the first full week back at school (where the real hard work starts again) we spoke to leading consultant psychologist and sleep expert Chireal Shallow, about how parents can help get children back into a positive routine after the holidays. It may seem too good to be true but there’s actually fun things to do during the day that will, in turn, help you children at night.
With five children between Christina and I, we know how daunting the post-summer bedtime routine can be for parents, and we truly believe in helping to make bedtime easier for everyone involved and promoting quality sleep. We love Chireal’s top 3 practical and achievable tips to guide parents and help children to ease back into the routine that September brings. We’ll definitely be attempting cottage cheese with our own children before bath-time and settling into a bedtime story.
3 top tips:
- Playing hide and seek helps to create a familiarity with the bedroom, allowing children to take ownership of the space, and create a feeling of purpose and love. The more time spent in their bedroom during the day, the better association they have with it at nighttime.
- Feeding children snacks such as cottage cheese before bed may sound absurd, but it is full of the amino acid tryptophan, which can increase serotonin levels. Top the cheese with raspberries to appeal to a child’s sweet tooth, as these are rich sources of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
- A foot massage every night an hour before bed can also help anxious and nervous children feel calm and settled.
Not only can parents try these three tips, Chireal explains that a positive bedtime structure is also about ensuring daytime and nighttime routines are a continual process, and not seen as two separate things, which is particularly important as the new school term approaches.
She says: “It’s really important that children are stimulated. This can take the form of education at school or post-school activities such as games, hobbies, reading or seeing friends.
Chireal continues: “School is one of the better opportunities for children to develop good sleep hygiene, due to the rigid structure of the day. Children know when to expect break times for example, and the routine is structured and secure.
“Their home life routine needs to match up in the same way, so it’s more of a fluid process. For example, it can be as simple as introducing cottage cheese and raspberries into a child’s lunch too, so they become used to this as a snack.”
Chireal has compiled some additional top tips for a stress-free bedtime routine:
Inject some YOU into the bedroom
Leave pieces of you in your child’s bedroom. This can be sounds, smells or sights and can be the most comforting thing a child can have. Leave a surprise every day; this way your child will look forward to seeing it at bedtime.
Let your child own their bedtime environment
Familiar scents are a great way for children to feel calm and safe at bedtime. For example, try Bloom and Blossom Dream Catcher’s Pillow Spray every night. It comes with personalisable stickers so that your child can make each bottle their own and spray it every night to fight off monsters and spray ‘happy dreams’ around their bedroom, before bed.
Lie down with children on their bedroom floor
Getting a feel for what a child experiences in their room, can be vital to understanding their experiences. Ask yourself if it feels like a calm space, or if there are any objects which may look different at night. For example, your child may have a backpack hung up, which may look scary in the dark - invest in a personalised one, which they can take pride in and allows them to feel unafraid.
Create a storybook
Together with your child, create a storybook of their daily routine. This can be everything from pictures of them brushing their teeth to the clothes they are wearing. Ultimately, this then becomes their bedtime book, and is a storyboard of their daytime routine, where they can reflect on musings from the day.
Read a bedtime story
It’s an age-old tradition and one which works. This is a special bonding time and will help your child to feel relaxed and at ease. A great book to try if your child is new to school is ‘Starting School’ by Janet and Allen Ahlberg, which offers tips and advice in a fun way. Or snuggle down with your favourite Roald Dahl classic and get lost in the world of the BFG or Matilda.
Create a bedtime box
Put inside the things that children need to feel safe and help them sleep at night. For example, books, favourite toys and pictures of family.
Your child is the manual
Ask how they’re feeling, and if they feel safe and comfortable when they climb in bed. Check on the surroundings, such as the amount of light in the room, and increase/decrease accordingly.
Hang up family photos
Place family photos around your child’s bedroom, so if they wake during the night, they’re immediately comforted.
Fans in summer are gold
Use a fan in hot rooms, as the noise and effect really help to enhance sleep.
Invest in a good mattress
Ensuring your child is supported in a physical manner helps to aid their mental and emotional wellbeing too. The Silentnight Imagine Traditional Sprung Mattress is reasonably priced and available online.