Summer is finally here and with it often comes a slower pace and more outdoor activities. It’s normal for schedules and sleep to get off track in the summer, especially with longer daylight hours. A lot of children have a harder time falling asleep at bedtime as it might feel more like daytime.
Here are some summer sleep tips for a smoother summer:
Have fun in the daytime. There are many hot weather activities that can actually improve sleep. Being outdoors in the daylight and fresh air has been known to improve sleep by providing ample stimulation and promoting the circadian rhythm. Outdoor activities such as running, playing, and swimming can also increase sleep pressure, tire your child out and encourage the body to get more rest.
Manage light exposure. The Circadian Rhythm or body clock is primarily set by exposure to light. Babies and younger children are usually on a 12-hour clock (give or take an hour.) The day system is triggered by exposure to bright or outdoor light in the morning and after 11-13 hours the night system kicks in. Night sleep is helped along by dimmer lights in the evening and darkness at night. You can help promote better sleep in the summer by exposing your child to outdoor or bright light soon after waking up in the morning, dimming the lights before bedtime, and making sure your little one sleeps in the dark at night. Ideas on how to make your room darker.
Keeping cool. It’s important to monitor your child’s temperature when it is hot out. Getting too hot makes sleep more challenging and can cause more fussiness in babies. You may have heard to dress your baby either the same as you or one layer more. Years ago, a family I was helping had a broken air conditioner. When I arrived, it was clear that the baby was overheating so I suggested stripping him down to just a diaper. The Mom expressed her concern that if she was wearing a T-shirt, then her baby should not be naked. I asked her how many layers she wanted to wearing at that moment and she agreed to try taking the baby’s layers off, and he became more settled. If you are finding keeping your child cool challenging you can put a wet blanket or hat on them.
Extended bedtime. If your child is having trouble falling asleep at bedtime, it may be helpful to extend your bedtime with quiet activities in dim lighting until he or she is feeling more tired. Once you see tired signs, you can quickly move into doing the last few steps of the bedtime routine and your tuck in.
Sleeping away from home. If you are travelling with your little one the top things you can do to promote sleep is to try to keep them from getting overtired and do what you can to replicate your child’s sleep environment while you are away. Consider bringing their unwashed pajamas, lovey, and bedding so sleep feels and smells familiar. You may also want to bring blackout blinds and white noise if you are using it.
Accept summer hours. You may find that summer is more enjoyable if you accept that your family is on summer hours. Strict schedules and bedtimes may not be needed in the summertime. If you are not struggling with tired or cranky children, it’s fine to go with the flow for a few months. You can always get back on track at the end of the summer.
Summer is a lovely time when we can enjoy more outdoor adventures and time together as a family. Having a more relaxed schedule may actually help your child to rest easier. Bottom line is that if your summer schedule is working for your family, then it’s fine to enjoy it and focus on getting back on track later.