Summer Days and Summer Sleep

As the days grow longer, many parents fear that bedtime battles will start to ensue. “But Mom! Why do I have to go to bed? The sun is still up!” Then there are also the challenges with visitors and guests with different rules in their households. “But Dad! Why do I have to go to bed when Ethan does not?”  And for us that like to travel, there is the fear that our children won’t be able to sleep in new and strange environments. “ Mom… will you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

The benefits to keeping to your routines and schedules are worth it – even during the warm summer months. Most people including children operate their best when they stick to their regular bedtime. Our bodies simply don’t adjust well when we stay up late one night, then go to sleep early the next. Or worse, stay up late many days in a row. In the past, before we had children, we could “catch up” on our sleep by sleeping in late on the weekends or on vacation. Unfortunately, our little ones don’t have the same capability. They simply can’t wake up at 6:30 am or 7:00 am and think to themselves…. “oh yeah … Mom and Dad let me stay up late last night … so I should sleep in until 9 am this morning.”

So, knowing all this … what can you do? Here are 5 easy tips.

1)      Invest in some good black out drapes. It is true that our sleep patterns are affected by natural light. You can help your little ones by having a dark room so that melatonin is released at bedtime and to help them sleep to a regular wake up time between 6 am and 7 am. It is important that it is dark but not too dark. You want your little one to be able to see in the night – so invest in a good night light as well.

2)      Stick to your bedtime and stress the importance of sleep to your little one. “Sleep helps you grow, Max. You will be able to enjoy the beach tomorrow by having a good rest.” Find “their currency” and use that to help you explain how important it is.

3)      Learn to love the early wake ups that children have. When a child is well rested, they are the happiest in the morning. Plan your outings and even entertaining for the mornings rather than the evenings. Have pajama parties and waffles instead of wiener roasts and s’mores until your kids are older and know how to “sleep in” the next day.

4)      Resist the urge to stay up late as well. Honour your sleep as well as your children’s. So, instead of staying up until Midnight, get to bed by 10:00 pm so you can embrace your children and be ready to go the next day.

5)      When travelling, stick to your bedtime routines and your schedules. Yes, it is OK to miss a nap or two, or perhaps stay up late one night for a special event, but you want it to be the exception rather than the norm. Make sure to bring their favourite pillows, stuffed animals and bath toys so that you can replicate “home” while being “away.”