The beginning of a new year at nursery, pre-school or school can really have an affect on many children and before you realise it, overtiredness can creep in. The really frustrating thing is that overtiredness can set of a vicious circle and spiral downwards. Because your child is tired, they have poor quality sleep, waking up more often in the night and starting the day earlier, which makes them even more tired, and so on!
Many parents get lulled into a false sense of security. Because their child has only just finished a lovely long summer break, their child can’t possibly be overtired already. But starting a new routine, changing their setting or even just returning to their normal activities, can be emotionally draining and tiring for young children.
Did you notice it over the weekend? Was your child more difficult to settle at bedtime? Did they wake during the night? Did they start the day really early? Were they having more emotional outbursts or melt downs? These are all classic signs of the dreaded OT – overtiredness.
Here at The Sleep Sanctuary HQ we also had a very special birthday celebration in the mix and overtiredness is definitely a big factor here. So here are a few quick tips to get you back on track this week and restore peace in your home.
- Allow some downtime. When your child comes home from nursery, school or any kind of childcare, they are likely to be physically and emotionally tired – especially after any kind of change such as the start of term. Whilst you’re bursting to know every detail of their day, they will need some downtime to rest and process the day. Provide some space and a healthy snack and drink before you question them, or you are likely to be in for either silence, a battle, or an emotional outburst – none of which will help lead in to a good evening routine.
- Early nights. Bring bedtime forward by 15 – 30 minutes for 4 consecutive nights to refill their sleep tank. It may seem like a small change, but it really will make a huge difference to their sleep structure and the overall quality of their sleep.
- Good old routine – I say it all the time, but make sure you are doing a very simple, calming bedtime routine to lead into a good sleep. Don’t make it too long or complicated just 3 or 4 steps in the same order each night is fine. Perhaps a warm bath and then pyjamas, bedtime snack or milk feed (depending on their age), teeth brush, story and cuddle. Don’t forget to make the sleep space calm and dimly lit with no bright lights, screens, music or entertainment.
- Snuggle up – Use bedtime as a chance to refill their love tank and feel emotionally reconnected. Have a cuddle, reconnect and let your child unload any thoughts or stories from the day. But do set a time limit in your mind and stick to it. Don’t allow them to talk for too long or become too animated. This is a calming wind down to clear their mind and feel your presence. Modern home life is so busy, set aside this time to really focus on your child and their feelings – you’ll reap the rewards during the night and you’ll both feel really great too!
- Eat well – Make sure that the evening meal and any supper or snack is nutritious and has plenty of slow release nutrients that will fill them up and sustain them overnight. Avoid processed and high sugar foods that will send them sky high when you are trying to settle them down. Bananas are an easy snack that are packed with relaxing potassium and magnesium that will improve the quality of your child’s sleep.
- Be understanding – The start of a new term is a big change for children and whilst they may seem fine, they are likely to be emotionally drained. Try to be a little more patient and understanding, particularly at the end of the day when everyone is tired. Prevent bedtime battles with kindness and understanding, but do keep to your house rules and limits. You can be kind without opening the flood gates to chaos.
- Review – Take a look at the weekly schedule and decide if it is just too busy for a small person to cope with. Most families I know dash between multiple activities each day and end up with overtired and emotional children and frazzled parents. Do you really need to do all of the activities and classes each week? Can you reduce the burden and prevent overtiredness anywhere? An overtired child won’t sleep well, becoming more overtired and then performing less well at school or activities.
If your child is finding over tiredness a problem book a free 15-minute, no obligation call with me to discuss how I can help you and your child to enjoy better sleep by clicking here
Rachael, The Sleep Sanctuary
The Sleep Sanctuary is a Children’s Sleep Consultancy supporting tired parents to help their children sleep soundly and live healthier, happier lives