Healthy Summer Sleep Schedule
Ahh, summer. The season of staying up late and sleeping in, of all-night movie marathons and all-day adventures. With so much fun to be had, it's hard to get your kids to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. However, good sleep is essential for growing children; sleep not only impacts children's development and health, but it also improves their behavior and attention day-to-day. How can you manage your kids' sleep schedule without stifling their summer fun? Julia Merrill of befriendyourdoc.org explains how this is possible with these five smart sleep tips.
Understand Your Child's Sleep Needs
A teen's sleep needs are different from an adult's, and a toddler's sleep needs are different from a teen's. Rather than trying to get the entire family on the same sleep schedule, tailor each family member's bedtimes and wake times to their developmental needs. As the New York Times explains, teens generally have a later sleep-wake cycle, which means they get tired late at night and sleep until mid-morning. Younger children need more sleep per night and typically feel tired earlier in the night and wake earlier in the morning.
Keep It Consistent
Once you've settled on appropriate bedtimes and wake times for each of your children, stick to your schedule. If your kids stay up late for a sleepover, get back on a normal schedule the following day. While they might spend one day groggy and grouchy, it's better than letting their sleep schedule be disrupted for a week or longer. A consistent sleep schedule promotes high-quality sleep, leads to better behavior throughout the day, and keeps your household schedule predictable so it's easier to plan your days.
Encourage Daytime Physical Activity
Exercise's impact on sleep is well-documented. According to Sleep.org, exercise not only increases tiredness so it's easier to fall asleep, but it also improves the quality and quantity of rest. Get your kids outside and active every single day so they sleep better at night. If it's rainy, turn to indoor activities at home or head to a trampoline park, rock climbing gym, indoor pool, or another indoor destination where your kids can burn off some energy.
Turn Bedrooms into Screen-Free Zones
Nothing will tank your child's sleep habits faster than playing on a smartphone or computer into the wee hours of the morning. Blue light emitted from electronic devices is known to promote wakefulness and disrupt circadian rhythms, making it harder for kids to fall and stay asleep. Keep electronics, including TVs, out of bedrooms so kids aren’t distracted by devices when they should be sleeping. If your kids aren't sleepy when it's time for bed, send them to bed with a book or journal instead.
Transition Sleep Schedules Before School Starts
If your kids have been sleeping in all summer, they may have trouble adjusting to early wake-ups when school starts again. Make the switch easier by gradually adjusting your children's sleep schedules a few weeks before school begins. By shifting bedtimes and wake times 15 minutes per day, you can send kids off to their first day of school fully rested and ready to learn.
It's well-established that kids thrive on routine. However, that doesn't mean you have to run your home like a drill instructor once the school year ends. It's perfectly fine to relax your household routines during summer break — to let kids stay up a little later, sleep in, and spend their days learning how to entertain themselves. What's important is that you're consistent so that even if the daily schedule shifts, your kids are getting the sleep they need to meet developmental benchmarks and spend their summer happy and well-rested.