Summer is here at last! This is the season for pool parties, barbeques, and family vacations. It’s also the time of year when bedtimes become a struggle. From Buffalo to Miami, the sun is out much later into the night than other times of the year. Plus, without school in the morning it is tempting to let your kids stay up as late as they want.
Remember, even if there’s nothing important to wake up for in the morning, your child’s sleep is still incredibly vital to their health and development! A full night of deep, uninterrupted sleep helps their bodies grow and recover, enables them to make the right decisions, improves their mood and behavior, plus keeps them at a healthy weight. You’ll notice that all of these are incredibly important and none of these have anything to do with school or grades. This is why your child’s sleep matters during the summer too!
With this in mind, how can you actually maintain a healthy bedtime routine in the summer months? Here are a few tips and tricks told to us by experts:
#1 Make sure they’re sleeping in a comfortable, supportive bed. Maybe the reason they’re having trouble falling asleep is more about their bed and less about the sun shining at 9 pm. Before you tackle anything else on the list, make sure your child or teen is sleeping on a mattress that is less than eight year old, supportive, and comfortable for them. If their mattress is low-quality or just not right for them, it’s going to be hard for them to get the amount of sleep they need. The right mattress for him or her means your child’s body gets the kind of cushioning that it needs to keep the spine aligned and their neck protected. A City Mattress Sleep Expert can help your family find it!
#2 Maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Children tend to maintain later sleep and wake times when they don’t have to go to school the next morning. This is actually okay! You don’t need to wake them up at 6 am for no reason. Experts tell us it is perfectly acceptable to allow them to stay up a little later and sleep in a little later, as long as this new summer schedule is consistent. Keeping a “new normal” bedtime from night-to-night ensures they still get enough sleep.
#3 Encourage healthy daytime habits. If you’re looking for a way to encourage bed without a fight, there’s plenty you can do throughout the day to achieve this. For example, studies tell us that the more physically active children are during the day, the more quickly they fall asleep at night. Healthier diets promote better sleep as well, so limit sugar and caffeine intake in the afternoon and evenings. If you encourage kids to engage in physical play and eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, they’ll naturally be ready for bed when the time comes.
#4 Minimize vacation-related sleep disturbances. For many families, summer means a family vacation! This makes it even more difficult to maintain their regular bedtime routine. Don’t beat yourself up over it! Experts in the industry encourage you to follow the “80/20 Rule.” Don’t stress too much if you have something special going on that doesn’t allow you to get them into bed until later. In fact, it’s actually a really good thing if you enjoy family time and do activities together as long as you don’t let it become the norm. Kids should be on a sleep schedule roughly 80% of the time, and 20% of the time you can be a bit more relaxed without worrying about long-term effects. This means staying up to watch the Fourth of July fireworks on your beach trip is fine, because it’s not your average night.
#5 Offer naps when needed. On the few occasions where you can’t be consistent with your sleep routine, you have an extra tool in your arsenal- a nap! Preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a night, while older kids and teens should be getting eight to 11 hours. If your kid stayed up late last night because of something special going on, it’s important to press pause on daytime activities, no matter how fun they might be, and get a nap in to make up for lost hours of sleep.
Chronic sleep deprivation in children isn’t something to take lightly, even during the time of the year when they have less responsibilities. Everybody needs time at rest in order to repair itself and to keep its systems in working order. Children’s bodies have the additional need to also grow bigger and stronger at a healthy rate as well. While the amount of sleep that children need changes as they age, consistent, deep sleep always plays a part in their physical and mental well-being. Their healthy development depends on good sleep this summer!