Better Sleep for Back to School

As summer ends, routines change and our sleep can be affected

Depending on where you are, you may have already been through the dreaded return-to-school week or are nervously anticipating it.

Read on to learn how going back to school can affect sleep and what can be done to help mitigate the impact it has on your sleep and that of your child.

A field in the summer's sun

How does it impact our sleep?

For children, term times introduce routine and structure, which are very sleep-friendly. However, the transition from the summer holidays to the start of term can be extremely difficult. Not only because we may have been less strict with bedtimes and lie-ins, but returning to school may bring some anxiety.

For example:

When moving up to secondary school, going into your GCSE year, or being separated from friends and relatives the children only see during the summer.

All of these changes and feelings can be disruptive for the child’s sleep, as well as for the rest of the family.

A class room with students and a teacher

For those of us not directly affected, it may still have some impact.

Perhaps you enjoyed the lower traffic and shorter commute and allowed yourself extra minutes in bed each morning.

Maybe the long bright evenings caused you to push your bedtime back.

Grandparents and other carers may need to get up earlier to help out with school drop-offs.

A cyclist commuting to work

Sleep service providers across UK and Ireland, trained by Sleep Scotland, and our own Sleep Support Line team, have seen an increase in referrals ahead of term start to get on top of the sleep routine.

Learn what you can do to make the transition back to school easier.


Back to school better sleep strategies

Although, as we all know, sleep improvement takes time to bring results, here are some strategies you can try now in your family or recommend to your service users to start the new academic year well-rested:

For those who became a bit of a night owl over the summer – start moving your bedtime gradually earlier. If you have enough time, you can make small changes – say 10 mins earlier every day, or bigger increments if school has already started for you. Resist the urge to make the most of the last days of the summer holidays and stay up even later! Consistency is key, and your future self will thank you.

Consider an active commute. Being active in natural daylight in the mornings will boost your cortisol production and make you feel more ready to tackle the day ahead, even if you’re still working on improving your sleep pattern. Consider cycling or walking to school or your nearest public transport stop. Make it a family activity and get everyone involved.

The first few weeks might be really challenging, but try to avoid increasing your caffeine or stimulant intake to keep yourself awake. If you resist, you will find it easier to fall asleep in the evenings.

The evenings are still quite bright, which might keep you awake. Make sure you close your blinds and curtains and dim any lights 1 hour before bedtime.

Instead of catching up on sleep on the first weekend, plan a fun activity for all to enjoy as your reward for the challenging week. Set your alarm no later than 1 hour after your usual wake-up time and celebrate the start of the new term actively!

Still not sure where to go?

Check our flow chart to guide you in the right direction