It can be a real challenge to stay on a good schedule in the summer time. For one, kids are out of school so it is tough to have a real routine. Second, it is light out until 9 pm! This makes it very challenging for young kids to fall asleep at an appropriate time.
If you are wondering what time your child should be going to bed, please see my post on What Time Should My Child Be Going To Bed? After you know what time they should be hitting the hay here are some tips on helping them fall asleep in the summer time.
What are some things I can do to help my child fall asleep at an appropriate time?
One important way to help kids fall asleep while it is still light outside is to use blackout curtains, or even better, blackout shades. Our melatonin secretion is related to light and darkness so if we want our bodies to know it is time to sleep it has to be dark in the room we are sleeping in. Many parents often think “well my kid’s room isn’t dark and my kid sleeps fine.” While some kids do seem to be less affected by light, all children will sleep better if their bedroom is dark.
I used to believe that I didn’t need to close the shade in my son’s room so I just used the blackout curtains. The curtains still allowed some light to enter the room. He was a good sleeper so I didn’t think it was bothering him to not be in a very dark in his room. Once I learned about how important it is for a person’s room to be dark I started pulling his shade down as well as using the curtain and he started napping for at least 30 minutes longer at nap time. Now he naps consistently for 2.5-3 hours. He is currently going through a growth spurt (he is always hungry) and this week he took a four-hour nap! A very dark sleep environment makes a big difference, so if you don’t already have blackout curtains go and get some!
Another thing you can do to help your kids fall asleep easily at bedtime is to dim the lights in your house and close the curtains as you approach bedtime. This is helpful for both babies and children.
There was a great article about how light exposure affects preschoolers.[i] The research shows that “exposing preschoolers to an hour of bright light before bedtime almost completely shuts down their production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin and keeps it suppressed for at least 50 minutes after lights out, according to new research, published today in the journal Physiological Reports.” So, an hour or so before you are going to start your bedtime routine close up your curtains and dim the lights and it will start preparing your body for sleep.
Before we get ready to go to sleep it is also important that we are not doing things that are stimulating. Televisions and screens (phones, ipads etc) have blue lights that are very stimulating. As I mentioned before, light, especially blue light, shuts down your melatonin secretion. Watching TV or playing on an ipad right before bed can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. If you want your child to fall asleep easily at night don’t let them watch TV at least one hour (preferably 2-3 hours) before they get ready for bed.
Lastly, getting lots of exercise also helps us sleep better. In the summer especially, find activities to do outdoors as a way to tire out your kids. The more physical activity they have during the day the better they will sleep at night. So, turn off the TV and get them to a pool or a park!
Sleep is critical for everyone, especially little people whose brains and bodies are still developing. It can be more of a challenge to get kids to bed on time during the summer, but it is important to do so as much as possible. Sometimes we will make an exception for movie night or a day at the beach - but this should be the exception not the rule. Your kids may not thank you but they will be better off getting the sleep they need and you will see it in their calm and happy behavior. Happy Sleeping!
©July, 2018 by Erin Myrmel at Sleep Baby, LLC
Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about sleep and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not intended nor is implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or the health and welfare of your baby, toddler or child. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment. For my full Disclaimer, please go to https://www.sleepbaby.co/disclaimer-copyright