Sleep and summer don’t generally go hand in hand- the nights are warm and the sun is still up and it gives us a renewed energy to do things we can’t do in the winter months.
We welcome this as an adult because we control our evening activities and our bedtime, but for our kids, it can be a bit tougher. They play hard all day outside enjoying the sunshine and as parents we think they are just going to fall into bed and instantly fall asleep- but, instead, they protest bedtime saying “I’m not tired”…which, as a parent we know cannot be true given the day’s events.
Babies and young children don’t generally know how to read a clock yet so I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when the sun stays around longer that is just doesn’t feel like bedtime to them yet.
I want to give you some advice so that your summer can be both well rested and well enjoyed.
How to ensure your children get the rest they need during the Summer:
One thing to keep in mind when reading this is that some children have a bit of a circadian rhythm reset in the summer and legitimately aren’t tired at their normal time due to the increase of sunshine (light inhibits melatonin productions in our bodies, which helps to regulate our circadian rhythm). I would say, though, that most issues are due to the increase in sunshine and outings which leaves children feeling like they aren’t tired or that they just don’t want to “miss out” on things.
If you think your child is legitimately not tired at their normal bedtime try this:
- Create a calm routine in the evening that consists of reading books, doing puzzles, playing board games or any other quiet activity that does not involve TV or any other screen time.
- Modify their bedtime by 30-60 minutes and allow quiet time to be a wind-down time for your child before bed.
- Stay firm with your expectations and limits- sometimes when we give ours toddlers a little change they will still protest so be sure you do not start giving in to every request for “more water” or “another story” as this often snowballs out of control over a few nights.
If you know your child is tired at their normal bedtime but is still resisting sleep I would suggest:
- Darkening your child’s bedroom by trying to eliminate light coming in anywhere; this will help promote a normal bedtime but also encourage them to sleep later in the morning. Keep in mind that the result of this takes a few days/weeks to see. I would suggest spending some time in the darkened room prior to bedtime so that their melatonin levels start to increase due to lack of light, this will help their bodies to feel the tired that we know they should be experiencing.
- You could also try moving their naptime up slightly so that they are more tired at bedtime. This is a delicate change though as we want to be sure to avoid over-tiredness at bedtime (if you are unsure and want me to look at your timing feel free to e-mail me). I would suggest this only after you have tried the above and not found success.
Sleep and Summer Travel
Of course I can’t leave out summertime travelling!
If you plan to travel this summer, having a later bedtime does make life easier, but respecting your child bedtime is still very important so that you can combat any meltdowns due to over-tiredness! Our kids are still young so we try to plan our outing around their bedtime because we know that our children are the happiest and healthiest when we respect their bedtimes. I feel guilty when I am frustrated that my child is acting out because they didn’t get enough sleep the night before due to our choice of having them out later than they should have been- it seems so unfair to them!
If you think your child can handle a later bedtime and sleep later in the morning (they still need the same amount of sleep every night so wake time is equally important) then go for it and embrace the summer months- just remember that when fall comes, and school starts again, your kids will need to get back on schedule and go to bed earlier again.
Oh and don’t forget the transition periods, they are unavoidable. Anytime you make a change to your child’s schedule there is a bit of a transition for them that can last a few days/weeks. Just try to be patient; their body clocks need time to adjust to the change. It is important to allow time for this so I suggest trying to get them back on schedule a few weeks before you actually need them to be in bed earlier again. If your child seems a bit off or crankier than usual it’s likely a good indication that your child needs an earlier bedtime.
Sleep well and safe travels this summer!