Back to School: Why learning starts at bedtime

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No sooner have the Christmas decorations come down and we’re all thinking about baches, beaches and barbeques, do those pesky back-to-school adverts start sowing seeds of reality back into our television screens.

And just because we’re seemingly pre-programmed to put off thinking about term-time, clean uniforms and homework while we’re still sunning ourselves on holiday, doesn’t mean you should take a little bit of time to consider whether it’s time to make a few changes in your children’s bedrooms.

New thinking for a New Year

A new calendar year and a new school year is the perfect time to gauge exactly how much your kids have grown and to see whether they still fit that bed and mattress which you bought a couple of years ago.

Bedpost has got a great guide to the best sizes for whichever member of your family you’re having to buy a new bed for – but it’s worth remembering that they’re not getting smaller and time soon and it’ll pay in the long-term to have them in beds which will last them through to becoming young adults.

Of course, having to re-adjust children from those long, free days of summer when all they want to do is run around on the beach (or sit sullenly in front of the PlayStation, depending on the species of kid you inherited) is always going to be tough – and it’s going to be even tougher if you’re dealing with a tired and grouchy child who’s performing poorly in kindy, class or college because they’re not sleeping well.

It’s worth looking into the advice for parents on when to move upgrade from a cot to a bed – most advice lands on around three years old – and how to make the move as painless as possible. But there’s also the chance to move up a size from a single to a double or queen to ensure a teenager gets a good night’s sleep.

The main advice is to get the children involved in the decision-making process – take them to the Bedpost store and have them test-drive the mattress options so they can tell the difference. When looking around for bed bases – see if there are options which incorporate storage for all their gear or splash out on new bedlinen which reflects their favourite band or sports team.

Make bed an attractive option

Although there’s plenty of research which shows that children are getting too much screen time before going to bed and that’s affecting the amount of sleep they get and how they perform in school, there’s still ample opportunity to decorate your kid’s room to make it somewhere where they want to be.

Half the problem of having to get kids to sleep enough hours during the first few weeks of a new school year, is all to do with the fact that it’s often still light outside and “going to bed” seems like the most boring option ever.

Now may be the time when you look at ways to spruce up your child’s bedroom with a new style and a new colour scheme. There are plenty of places to look on the internet for inspiration and there’s always the regular pirates, princesses, ponies and astronaut themes to fall back on. But there’s also our own backyard with heaps of themes surrounding the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and, with sports featuring hugely this year through New Zealand’s hosting of the Cricket World Cup and the All Blacks defence of the Rugby World Cup later in the year in England, there’s bound to be more than a few kids interested in a sporting theme.

At this time of the year, blackout rollerblinds can be a good idea to help young children sleep in darkened rooms without thinking they’re missing out on the daylight outside – alternatively setting a hard and fast routine before term-time starts at least means that they’re used to sensible bed-times before they’re totally necessary.

Learning begins in bed

Research already out this year confirms what most parents already know about screen-time playing a role in keeping children from a good night’s sleep.

And a study by the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, has revealed that smartphones may be even more damaging than a television or computer.

A study of more than 2000 elementary and middle-school students in America found that having a smartphone or tablet in the bedroom was associated with less weekday sleep and feeling sleepy in the daytime.

"Studies have shown that traditional screens and screen time, like TV viewing, can interfere with sleep, but much less is known about the impacts of smartphones and other small screens," said study lead author Jennifer Falbe.
Falbe said small screen were potentially more harmful because of their wide range of content – such as games, videos, websites and texts – all of which can distract from going to sleep. Because they also “ping” when they want to alert the child to an incoming message, they also interrupt sleep.

“Children who slept near a small screen, compared to those who did not, were also more likely to feel like they did not get enough sleep," Falbe said.

According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, pre-teen school-aged children need at least 10 hours sleep a day and teenagers need between nine and 10.

A tired child is not going to be as effective in school and certainly isn’t going to be as adept at learning, so it’s important to set ground rules over the use of phones, tablets and computers.

Any ground rules you set before or over summer may well have slipped during the holidays or might not be appropriate for term-time, so the new school year is the perfect time to set them straight again.

Falbe suggested night-time "curfews" for electronic devices, limited overall access to all screen time, and/or banning TVs and Internet-enabled devices from a child's bedroom.