There are only a few days left to reach the long-awaited (for many parents) routine and with it, inevitably, recover the schedules. One of the most important is that of the hours of sleep of school-age children, who during the holidays have been going to bed later than usual. “Both adults and children must take into account the necessary rest times and the quality of sleep for the benefit of our body,” explains Carmen Romero, child psychologist and expert in children’s sleep. In them, which are in full development and growth, “it is extremely important to take into account sleep hygiene habits to facilitate their rest. And schedules, routines, personal hygiene, food, the environment, all of them, have a significant influence”, says the expert.
The brain of any individual needs to rest in order to perform, according to Romero. “In the case of children who are growing, sleep is a priority. Minors receive a bombardment of stimuli, knowledge and are in continuous movement, so they need to have a lot of energy for their good development and to achieve family harmony. For this, “it is important to comply with a few hours of sleep and adequate schedules.” “When we excessively extend the hours without sleep (sleep windows), the brain secretes cortisol, the stress hormone, which is responsible for keeping us awake,” explains Romero. “This hormone overexcites the child and makes it extremely difficult to fall asleep despite being tired. Although he finally manages to fall asleep after much struggle, his sleep will be light, so he can wake up multiple times throughout the night. Interrupted sleep does not repair the same as a night of continuous sleep.
How do we change sleeping habits in summer?
“Holidays”, Romero maintains, “are usually something that is eagerly awaited throughout the year and once they start, logistics are put in place that allow us to get to several things at the same time: the preparations, the suitcases, the children, pets… all this brings us upside down. However, we immediately realize that summer is not a good ally for resting”.
The expert adds that in order to make all the plans, you must make a good organization and not forget how important it is to sleep: “If you want to have a good vacation, be happy, enjoy yourself, and make them restful, it is important to prioritize, above everything, the rest of our little ones. Our well-being depends, in large part, on yours. And to think that they are the ones who have to adapt to our schedules usually ends with tensions and family stress”.
To get them to sleep what they should, it would be ideal to maintain a schedule similar to the rest of the year. But the expert is also a realist and she knows that this “is not usually possible.” How to reconcile the schedules and sleep of the children with the holidays? “The secret is to get our children to sleep around 11:00 p.m. Whether they are babies or five years old. This means that if they go to sleep a little later than during the course, they should also get up later. And even though the sun rises earlier, it is important to keep the rule: we go to bed late, we get up late”, explains Romero. “Not because it is daylight we will start our activity earlier,” she continues, “to avoid confusion and better manage schedules, it is advisable to control the entry of light into the bedroom.”
On the other hand, according to the expert, “we must not forget the need for daytime sleep, that is, naps.” Although first you have to assess whether the child needs them: “From the age of three, not all children require sleeping. Despite this, it is important that they have a break to relax, with a dim light that allows them to recharge their batteries. For example, you can create a quiet rest, reading or play space that avoids over-excitation”.
How and when to modify schedules to be prepared for the return to school
With the end of summer, families are faced with a new time change: getting back to the routine: “We must take into account that we need time to make the changes gradually and for this it is advisable to plan a few days in advance to return to the cole. The ideal is to advance the bedtime by 20 minutes every three days. For example, if the child is going to sleep an hour later than he usually does during the course, he should start advancing the time 10 days before: “That is, we advance 20 minutes, compared to summer time, the days 1, 2 and 3. After these days, we advance 20 more minutes (40 minutes before daylight saving time) on days 4, 5 and 6. Finally, on days 7, 8 and 9 we advance 20 minutes to get the time suitable for starting school. In this way, the child will hardly notice it and the new timetable will make it easier for them to start the course”.
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