15 Jul Sweet Summertime – Sleep Survival Guide
It’s summer time, sweet summertime!
Summertime is when kids make their most cherished memories…vacations and weekend adventures, sprinklers and swimming pools, ice cream and snowballs, playing outside until dark, and such much more. The list of summer fun is endless!
Summer comes with all sorts of exciting opportunities to throw our routines and schedules out the window, all to enjoy just a little more fun. Although it’s easy to derail from our usual routines in the summer, that extra that fun can come with a cost if you’re not prepared.
And although the days are longer, you kiddo’s sleep needs should still be honored. If they aren’t getting proper rest, you will ultimately end up with an overtired and cranky little one, and that’s not sweet nor fun for anyone.
It is possible to enjoy summer’s simple pleasures with your kiddos while maintaining their sleep needs and healthy sleep habits. And I’m going to tell you how!
Maintain a good sleeping environment, dark and cool
Our body’s internal clock that controls sleep is regulated by sunlight. When it’s dark outside, our body produces melatonin, the sleepy hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. Light suppresses melatonin. Our bodies are alert and energized when melatonin levels are low.
Since most kiddos go to bed when the sun is still shining in the summer, we have to be creative to help that melatonin start flowing before bedtime. At least an hour before bedtime, draw the blinds closed and dim the lights in the house. And more importantly, ensure your kiddo’s bedroom is dark, I mean can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face DARK! If you haven’t invested in actual window covers, I suggest it. My favorite brand is the Black Out EZ Window Cover; you’ll thank me later. Even the smallest glimmer of light is enough to stimulate a child and prevent sleep and/or cause a waking.
Keep your child’s bedroom cool during the summer months. The ideal temperature range for sleep is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you dress them appropriately, too. I suggest light-weight, breathable pajamas, swaddles, and sleep sacks. Consider short sleeves if the temperature in their room is on the high end of the ideal range and long sleeves (and possibly socks) if their room is on the low end.
Keep to your usual schedule
It’s so tempting to allow your little one to sleep in, especially after an eventful night of summer fun but get them up within a half hour of their usual morning wake up time. As far as bedtime, your kiddo’s body clock works best if bedtime stays within a half hour range. Trust me, your child will be a better mood and better behaved…win, win!
Now, I understand there are some can’t-miss-out-on activities during the summer that results in a later bedtime. Yes, we do have to live a little! However, I’d be selective and decide if this event is really worth it. Is the event going to be as enjoyable with an overtired, cranky little one? Well if you really think it’s a can’t-miss activity, start with a well-rested child, ensuring that she gets proper sleep the night before and a great nap(s) the day of. I’d also considering moving up bedtime the following night to make up for any sleep debt acquired.
If you find yourself going to bed later more often than not during the summer, adjust their schedule. Just be mindful not to push it more than an hour later and don’t make this adjustment in one night. I recommend staring with bedtime; move it 15 minutes later every 3 days until you reach desired new bedtime. Do the same with nap(s).
Be smart with naps
It is not realistic to think you will be home for every nap, especially with all the summer outings. If you have a usually good sleeper on your hands, you can abide by the 80/20 Nap Rule, meaning 80% of naps should be taken at home and 20% of naps can be on the go.
Explaining further… 80% of your naps should be motionless naps at home in a familiar sleeping environment, as this is the most restorative sleep according to research. You can allow 20% of your naps to be on the go, in the car or stroller. A car or stroller nap is not ideal, but is better than no nap at all and allows for extra fun in the sun. If you little one is still taking multiple naps a day, I recommend planning for the first nap of the day to be at home, as this first nap is typically the longest and hence, most restorative.
And remember, if your little one has a poor nap day, you can always move up bedtime.
Get outdoors and burn off some energy
Naps and early bedtime can pose a challenge for some families to get outside and play. But remember, outside play and sunshine are actually good for sleep. The sunshine helps regulate your child’s circadian rhythm and helps to burn off energy, reaching a level of fatigue that will allow them to fall asleep more easily. Don’t forget the water and sunscreen! You don’t want a dehydrated, burnt little one; this can also disrupt sleep!
Plan travel accommodations wisely
It’s easy to bend the rules on vacation. If you’re in a hotel or staying at a friend’s house, you don’t want to disrupt others’ sleep so it’s so tempting to relax the boundaries, allowing your little to hop into the bed with you and your partner or feed them when they wake in the night. It’s very easy to allow these things to happen and you can regress at home with healthy sleep habits if you aren’t careful.
Children learn fast, infants, included. Boundaries will be tested: are the rules on vacation the same as the rules at home? Maintain structure and boundaries as much as possible and sleep should stay on track upon returning home.
At the end of the day, while summertime often means more activities and a busier time in general, you can still maintain healthy sleep habits and make sleep a priority.
Be honest with yourself about what your priorities are and do not be afraid to voice them to friends and family. Honoring your child’s sleep needs strategically can make all the difference in a pleasant, well-behaved child or an overtired cranky tyrant. I know which I’d prefer.
Above all, enjoy the sunshine, travel, and quality time, but enjoy that sleep too!
And if the summer fun gets the best of you, I’m always here to get you back on track, now or in the fall!