It’s summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime….
Summer is a special time for children and parents alike. It is the season in which the most cherished memories are made. Summer means swimming pools, sprinklers, bare feet, ice cream and full-on sunshine at 8:00 PM. It is no wonder why children want to stay up late this time of year and why it is so hard for us as parents to deny them their summer fun. But remember, although the days are longer, the sleep needs of our children are still the same. If they aren’t getting the proper amount of rest they will ultimately end up overtired and cranky. As a result, they (and you) can’t fully enjoy all the simple pleasures of summer. Es no bueno!
So, how do you ensure your child is getting enough sleep during this exciting time of year? Here are my Top 5 Summertime Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers…..
1. Trick Mother Nature - Our body’s circadian rhythm, which controls our sleep, is regulated by sunlight. When it’s dark, our body produces melatonin to help us fall and stay asleep. When it’s light, our body suppresses melatonin and we become alert and energized. In summer, most kids go to bed when the sun is still shining. In order to help get their melatonin flowing before bed you have to be a little sneaky. First, about an hour to two hours before bedtime, start to draw the blinds and dim the lights to mimic the sun setting. Next, and this is most important, install window covers. That way, there isn’t even the smallest glimmer of sunlight peaking through at bedtime or early morning. I know what you are thinking: “We installed black-out curtains in our child’s room so we are good.” That may not be true as even a little sliver of sunlight coming through is enough to stimulate a child. Do yourself a huge favor and buy actual window covers. My favorite brand is Black Out EZ Window Cover. It is the best investment ever!
2. Cool it Down - The ideal temperature range for sleep is between 68 to 72 degrees. Most monitors these days display the room temperature. If yours doesn’t, then purchase a table top thermometer. Just because your thermostat is set to the perfect sleeping temperature it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child’s room is that same temp.
Once you ensure that their room is the appropriate temp, be sure to dress them appropriately, too. Reach for light-weight, breathable cotton pajamas (I love Monica + Andy PJs), swaddles and sleep sacks. If their room is on the high end of the ideal temperature range, choose short sleeves. If it is on the low end, you will want to choose long sleeves and maybe even consider putting socks on their little tootsles.
3. Stay On Schedule - I know it is tempting to allow your babe to stay up late, but their circadian rhythm works best if bedtime is kept in a half hour range (e.g, 7:00 to 7:30 PM). That means that your child will be in a better mood and better behaved as a result. Score!
I know that there will be some not-to-miss events this summer that will require a later than usual bedtime. And that is OK! Hey, you still have a live a little! Just be very selective as to when you keep your kiddo up late. Ask yourself if the activity is worth an overtired child. When the answer is yes, make sure that your child is well-rested going into the event by ensuring they get plenty of sleep the night before and take a great nap (or naps) the day of the event. Also, the next day, you can consider putting your child to bed a little early to make up for any sleep debt they acquired.
If you find yourself keeping your kiddo up late more often than not, than go ahead and adjust their schedule. Just be careful not to push it more than an hour later and to not move to fast. I recommend starting the transition with bedtime and move it 15 minutes later every three days until the desired bedtime. Change the nap time accordingly the next day.
4. Be Creative with Naps - Busy summer days at the park, pool or zoo can make napping, especially at home, difficult. if your child is currently napping well, you can abide by the 80/20 Nap Rule. What I mean by that is that 80% of naps should be taken at home and 20% of naps can be taken in the car or stroller. You want to aim for the majority of naps to be at home as motionless sleep in a familiar environment is the most restorative. Research shows that our bodies will not allow us to reach deep stage 3 sleep for as long or as often as when our bodies are in motion. It is a protective mechanism which, albeit annoying, is pretty clever if you ask me. However, you have a little wiggle room and can allow for no more than 20% of naps to be in the stroller or car. Although it is not ideal, it is better than nothing and it allows you to enjoy some extended fun in the sun. If babe is still taking multiple naps, plan for the first to be at home as that is what I like to call the “golden nap”. It is usually the longest and hence, most restorative.
5. Get Outside and Have Some Fun! - It can be challenging to be active when you have a child that is still napping and going to bed early, but try your best to enjoy the warm weather and fun activities while you can. Spending time in the sunshine is actually good for your child’s circaidan rhythm and helps them to reach a level of fatigue that will allow them to fall asleep easily. Just don’t forget to apply sunscreen and encourage them to drink plenty of water. Both sunburn and dehydration can interfere with sleep.
I hope these tips help keep your child well-rested this summer so that they and you can make the most of this magical time of year. If your kiddo ends up falling off course, not to worry, I am here to help you get back on track! You can schedule a free 15 minute evaluation to learn more.