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Sleep tips for school age children

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We work a lot with babies, toddler and pre-schoolers to help them to establish good sleep. However, we also work with school aged children up to 10 years old. Sleep is vital for this age group of children, they are asked a lot of during the week, academically, socially and physically. Sleep deprivation can really impact their behaviour and level of achievement.

In a 2017, Panorama documented a study, whereby school aged children slept 1 hour more per night for a week. The results were really significant. The children’s problem solving ability increased by 66%, results of a memory test showed an increase of 57%, whilst attention and focus increased by 44%.

When it comes to helping your older child with their sleep, here are our top tips:

  • Know how much sleep your child should be having: 3 – 5 year olds need an average of 10-13 hours sleep per 24 hours, where as 6-10 year olds need 9-11 hours. It’s a good idea to work backwards from the time they need to wake up in the morning. For example, if your 7 year old needs approximately 10.5 hours of sleep per night and need to get up for school at 7am, they should be in bed ready to sleep by 8.30pm. Some 7 year olds will need more than 10.5 hours, some slightly less, each child is different.
  • Make sure you have a consistent bedtime routine: we always recommend implementing a bedtime routine, whatever age little one we are working with. For school aged children this could involve some quiet time for 20 minutes or so, perhaps drawing, colouring, playing cards, craft etc. Hand eye co-ordination is really good for relaxing the brain at this time of day. This is also a good time to offer a sleepy snack (a list of which can be found on our Facebook page). A bath/shower is a nice way for children to unwind and relax so include this in their bedtime routine. Once they are ready for bed, reading a story with them or doing some relaxation exercises in bed is a good way to end the routine. This whole process shouldn’t last more than 1 hour (the time from getting in the bath to bed being no longer than 30 minutes).
  • Create a good sleeping environment: the bedroom should be as dark as possible, in order to help the production of melatonin (the ‘sleepy hormone’). Try to ensure that there’s not too much distraction in the bedroom, it should be a calm and relaxing place for your child to be during the night. Be mindful of the temperature, as being too hot/cold can impact the quality of sleep.
  • Turn off the screens: the blue light in screens is proven to stop the body from adequately producing melatonin, so it is crucial that there is no screen time for at least 1 hour, ideally 2, before bedtime.
  • Regular exercise and time outdoors: outside time and physical activity each day is very important. ‘Sunlight’ helps hormones to remind the body it is awake time and fresh air and exercise always aid sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and sugary food before bedtime: caffeine and sugar are stimulants, and therefore should be avoided too close to bedtime so that hot chocolate needs to move to another part of the day.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of sleep disorders: children should, on the whole, wake naturally without requiring too much parental encouragement. If after 10 hours sleep they aren’t generally able to wake naturally, or still appear very tired during the day, there may be an underlying sleep disorder which may need to be considered.

If your child is experiencing sleep difficulties, please do not hesitate to get in touch . We love working with school aged children and involve them as much as possible to help them achieve good quality sleep.

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