During her recent Q&A with Mammoth Dr Nicola Barclay, University of Oxford Sleep Scientist discusses how important it is to get our sleep back on track after lockdown where most of our routines were distrupted.
“So with children returning to school since the COVID-19 pandemic, we may see that many families struggle to find that routine again after six months of disrupted routines since lockdown. And so, what could be my recommendations for getting back into the swing of things?
Well, we know that around a half of parents, who were surveyed in July 2020, revealed that over half of them don’t consider their children or their teenagers to be getting enough sleep. And since lockdown, we may have found changes in our routines, including changes to our sleep-wake routines, which may be pretty dramatic. To some, this may be welcoming, being able to go to sleep when we feel like being able to stay in bed longer in the mornings without that rush of the school run to make us wake up.
But the return to the school routine needs us to create a change in our behaviour. We may have seen our children go to bed later and later since lockdown, and we now need to rein that in so that we can get to the school gates on time. And there are some simple strategies that we can use to get back into the swing of things with the aim to bring the bedtime earlier. Now we can realistically achieve about a 15 minute advance in our biological clock each day.
So we shouldn’t be expecting our children to go from a 10 o’clock bedtime to an eight o’clock bedtime overnight, give it a few days, maybe even give it a week. So each day start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier than you have been doing over the summer period. Keep lights low in the evening, make sure the evening activities are calm. You can have a relaxing, warm bath or your children can have relaxing warm bath and having a warm bath can actually trigger the body to cool down. When our bodies get out of warm bath and we hit the cool air, our bodies naturally start to cool and our bodies love to be cool in order to get to sleep.
Minimise screen time in the hour before bed, screen time exposes us to bright light and keeps us alert. Things that we don’t want when getting to sleep and bright light also inhibits that sleep hormone melatonin, which we need in order to get off to sleep.
So these are some of the things that we can do before bed. But what about waking up, waking up in the morning? Make sure that your child is waking up in good time not to have to rush first thing in the morning. Nobody likes to rush to the school gates, open the curtains and make the room as bright as possible. What we’re trying to do here with light is really synchronise the circadian rhythm to the timing of our social and work schedules.
And it’s important to keep this routine as much as we can at the weekends. Our bodies and brains love routines. And even though we may be tempted to catch up on lost sleep at the weekends, sometimes having a lie in this can actually make it harder to keep a healthy routine during the week. So where you can if you can stick to the same bedtimes and wake times at weekends and making small changes such as these can be really helpful in maintaining a healthy sleep routine and ensuring that your child gets the best sleep that they need and this is important regardless of whether sleep is taking place online or in person.”
The full Q&A session with Dr Nicola Barclay is available on our YouTube channel here.