Sunny beach days, camping trips, and days on the lake. All of these are the events that we love and look forward to in the summer months. But, if you have young children or a baby, these events, combined with the long daylight hours can really wreck your child’s sleep schedule. So, what do you do? How do you enjoy the summer months, but also make sure that your child is getting the adequate sleep that they need?
Those long summer days can make it hard to get your little one to head inside and climb into their bed. Why should they want to? “Mom, it’s still light out, it’s not bedtime!” “Dad, can’t we just stay out at the beach for one more hour?” These are common requests, and they are understandable. So, how do you handle it?
Be consistent with their bedtime. If every day their bedtime is different, then your baby or child will not know what to expect. Children thrive on routine and predictability. It helps them feel safe and secure because they know what is coming next. Plus, their circadian rhythm or body clock, will not know what to do if their bedtime is an hour or two different every night. Pick a bedtime and stick to it. Now, I can hear all the parents out there yelling at me saying, “But this is the time for fun!? What does it matter!!??”. Of course, it is time for fun and travel, but that doesn’t mean you cannot also have a consistent bedtime. “But, what about when we go out on the lake or go camping?” This is the time when I like to let my clients in on a little secret… the 80/20 rule. 80 % consistent, 20% have some fun.
Pick an early bedtime. Now that you know how important it is to be consistent, next choosing an early bedtime is crucial. It is a common misconception that children will sleep better when they go to bed late, or that they will sleep later. This may be true for a few days, but after that, the child will start to accrue “sleep debt” from not getting enough hours of sleep each night. Aim for a bedtime between 6-8 pm, and keep in mind that most children need between 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
Keep their bedroom dark. Not “I can still see my hand in front of me dark.” I am talking about, “pitch black, stub your toe on the crib, because you cannot find the door on your way out dark.” Use blackout blinds. If you don’t have those, use black trash bags or tin foil. (You just may want to tell your neighbors why you are using the tin foil, so they don’t get the wrong idea!). The light that creeps in at bedtime, in the morning and during naptimes, can all greatly affect your child’s ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Sleep is a necessity to thrive and develop. Sleep debt in children can affect their mood and their development, causing hyperactivity, crankiness, moodiness, and lack of interest in activities over time. So go out there, get on the lake and take your children on that camping adventure. We have all earned it after the year we have had! But remember, on the other days, to keep it consistent and keep it early. It will benefit everyone!