The summer months can bring a big shift in routine for families with children. Your child has a regular bedtime during the school year, but now that summer’s here, it’s the Wild West. Maybe your son goes to sleep whenever he feels so inclined, or your daughter naps until high noon. It’s important, however, that children have a regular bedtime even during the summer months. A consistent summer sleep schedule is crucial for your child’s health and development.
Why a consistent summer sleep schedule matters
Consistency is key in establishing an effective summer sleep schedule for your children. Choosing a regular bedtime helps children fall asleep more easily, and get better quality sleep. This helps ensure that children develop properly, stay healthy, and function at their best.
Studies have shown that a consistent sleep schedule can help children pay attention, focus better, function better, and it can improve behavior. Following a regular sleep schedule year round helps promote good sleep hygiene and develops good sleep habits. An irregular sleep schedule, on the other hand, can disrupt circadian rhythms and can lead to sleep deprivation. In fact, inconsistent sleep habits can also lead to significant behavior problems.
Maybe you’re OK with a later bedtime during the summer, but summer sleep schedule should still be a consistent one. It can be difficult to get children to bed when the sun is still shining. You don’t necessarily have to stick the same 8:00 bedtime they have during the school year, but you should still establish a regular time to wake up and go to bed.
If you do choose to set a later bedtime, remember that your children will have to return to an earlier bedtime when the school year starts again. It will be easier to make the transition if their bedtime is closer to their original bedtime. It’s easier to adjust to an 8:00 bedtime from a 9:00 bedtime than it is from an 11:00 bedtime.
Dialing in a regular summer sleep schedule
Choose a bedtime and work towards meeting that bedtime on a regular basis. The more consistent you are, the better the results will be.
Make sure that the bedtime you choose provides your child with enough sleep each night. Here’s how much sleep your child needs according to the Sleep Foundation.
- Newborns (0-3 months) need 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11) months need 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years) need 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years) need 10-13 hours
- School age children (6-13 years) need 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14-17 years) need 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Younger adults (18-25 years) need 7 to 9 hours of sleep
Establish a routine to help your children relax and get ready for bed. Maybe start with a shower or bath, followed by brushing teeth, and then a bedtime story.
Remove electronics from the bedtime ritual as light from screens has been shown to inhibit melatonin production.
To block out the summer evening sunlight and create a calm atmosphere, some parents find it helpful to use blackout curtains, blinds or other window coverings to make the child’s room dark.
Neighbors may not follow the same summer bedtime. Loud lawn mowers, shouts, and laughter may keep your child awake. Try a white noise machine or quiet music to cover the sounds of a noisy neighborhood and help your child get the rest they need.
Making bedtime a desirable thing can help children learn to embrace going to bed rather than resist it.
If you notice that your child continues falling asleep throughout the day, has difficulty going to bed, is always tried, or is often upset when he or she wakes up, talk to your child’s pediatrician.