The sun is shining, the weather is warm, and suddenly, your child has stopped sleeping! It’s easy to get wrapped up in the summer fun but sometimes we lose track of healthy sleep habits. Here are some things to remember this summer to keep everyone in the family sleeping well.
1. Embrace the Dark Room
One of the biggest reasons for sleep getting derailed in the summer, is bright light late into the day. Now that we’ve just passed the longest daylight day of the year, sunset doesn’t occur until often around 8 or even 9 at night. With the light staying out later in the day, our body doesn’t start to produce melatonin until later at night. As a result some children may have difficulty settling for bed since their sleepy hormones haven’t gotten the memo. Therefore it’s crucial to start closing blinds and dimming the lights throughout the house a few hours before bedtime. This will give the body a chance to produce enough melatonin before jumping into overtired territory. Also, thanks to being closer to the sun, it can be extra bright early in the morning. A pitch black room with blackout shades will help curb those early in the day rays.
2. Adjust Your Schedule
Summer fun is filled with fireworks and BBQ dinners and as a result, bedtime gets pushed later and later. It’s always ok to be flexible with your child’s sleep routine, but if you find that more often than not you are staying out late, you may want to adjust your child’s entire schedule to help maximize their sleep. In order to shift a schedule, those blackout shades mentioned above are key. You’ll need your child to sleep later in the morning so making sure their room is pitch black is critical. Then you’ll want to push back their meal times and nap times as well so that the entire day shifts slightly later. For example, if your child used to go to bed around 7pm and wake at 6am, but 8pm is better for your summer schedule, aim for an 8pm bedtime with a 7am wakeup time. If your child previously napped at 12, push that nap to 1. The whole purpose here is to make sure your child still gets as much sleep as they did prior to the shift while allowing you to enjoy those later evenings. Not all children will be able to adjust their schedule like this but it’s worth a shot for those that are a little more flexible.
3. Check Your Thermometer
Room temperatures that are too warm or too cold are culprits for disrupted sleep (especially in the early morning). To keep sleep on track, keep your child’s bedroom between 68-72 degrees and dress your child in weather-appropriate clothing. This may mean swapping out footie pajamas for shorts and a t-shirt and/or swapping a higher rated TOG sleep sack for a lighter one. The best way to tell if your child is at a comfortable temperature throughout the night is to touch their skin in the morning. They should be slightly cool to the touch and they should not be clammy or sweaty.
4. Gauge The Activity
Especially with older children, summer leads to increased outside activities which may mean a lot of expended energy. Swimming, running, sweating—those all can wipe a child out! Keep an eye on their behavior at the end of the day. Whereas your child may be able to do a certain bedtime for the rest of the year, if you find that they are truly exhausted in the summer, then move up bedtime slightly based on cues. Sometimes a very active child will need extra sleep overnight to compensate for their busy summer days.
Summer doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice fun at the expense of sleep. Just make sure to maintain a sleep-friendly environment, keep fairly consistent day-to-day, and pay attention to your child’s behavior. By keeping these things in mind, you should be able to balance the summer lifestyle with a well-rested child!
Nicole Cannon, The Sleepy Mama, is a certified sleep consultant through the International Maternity and Parenting Institute and member of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants. Nicole recently completed a certification in Infant Mental Health through the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto and is finishing up a Maternal Mental Health certificate course from Postpartum Support international. Although she had previously done sleep work with families she nannied for, it wasn't until Nicole had her first child in 2013 that she was able to experience how difficult sleep deprivation can be on both children and parents. Now a mom of three very different sleepers, Nicole looks at the entire picture and uses a variety of sleep techniques and methods with families to help everyone get more rest.