6 Summer Sleep Tips for Well-Rested Kids
As the days get longer, temps get warmer, and schedules get more relaxed, make sure that your kid’s summer sleep doesn’t suffer. It’s so easy for kids to get overtired from all the fun they’re having over the summer - I call it “the summer slide.” If it happens to you, you’ll be dealing with BIG emotions and meltdowns on the regular.
Here are 6 ways to avoid the slide and improve your kid’s summer sleep.
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Get that summer sleep while still having all the fun
When I think about what summer was like when I was a kid, I remember fun summer camps, long days at the pool, and lots of popsicles and cookouts. I’m pretty sure that’s what my kid’s summer is going to look like this year, too.
But one thing you don’t want to miss out on is sleep - yours or your child’s! Without good sleep, you’ll be dealing with a crabby kid who's inflexible, clingy, and acts like a Debbie Downer, no matter what fun things you have planned.
Let’s avoid that little rain cloud mood at all costs! Here’s how to do it:
1. Set a summer schedule
Kids thrive on routine year-round. As a rule, they like to know what to expect, and just because summer days may be different doesn’t mean they have to lack structure.
I love the idea of making a visual guide for your child so they know what to expect from each day. You could set it up on the weekend to prepare everyone for the upcoming week.
Do what feels good, but you could include things like Breakfast, Go to Camp, Lunch at Home, Quiet Time, Outside Play, Dinner, Family Time, Bedtime.
When possible, give your child some choices to give them a sense of control. Let them choose their lunch or what they want to play outside, or have them pick the activity everyone does during family time.
And remember, your kid NEEDS sleep. It’s not just a “nice to have if we’re home in time”.
They need 10-12 hours of sleep each and every night. So, plan ahead for naps and bedtime.
2. Have a dark, dark bedroom
Having a dark room signals our body that it’s time to sleep. But the sun is up later in the day during summer, which means it can still be sunny at 9 pm or even later in some places. It also rises really early in some places. Where I live in CT, sunrise is at 5:20 a.m.!
That’s why summer is a great time to make blackout curtains your best friend. You can buy blackout-lined drapes, add blackout liners to existing drapes, add blackout shades to the window, or even use black trash bags if you have to. Double-sided velcro strips around the edges of drapes help with extra light seeping in the corners.
Keeping as much light out as possible during those precious sleeping hours will make the quality of sleep much better.
3. Enjoy the sun
While we want to limit our sun exposure when it’s time for sleep, we do want to use sun exposure to our advantage during the day. Exposure to sunlight in the afternoon helps regulate our body’s circadian rhythm. This is exactly what we want for optimal summer sleep. So, get your child outside in the afternoon. Run around the yard, walk the dog, or hit the playground.
4. Keep a consistent sleep routine
Make sure your child goes to bed around the same time each night. If you have a child under 6 years old, bedtime should be before 8 pm. This bedtime shouldn’t fluctuate by more than 15 minutes or so, to help their body get used to being tired around the same time. It builds up their sleep muscle memory.
Your goal is to have them sleep for 10-12 straight hours. Yes, I understand that this may mean having to say no to some evening events that’ll keep you out past bedtime. But if you’ve seen what your child is like when they’re overtired and their sleep is all out of whack, you may realize that leaving the cookout a little early is worth it!
5. Follow the 90% rule
While I do want you to keep a consistent summer sleep schedule, we have to be realistic and expect that there will be nights when the kids need to stay up past their bedtime.
Your goal should be to keep your kid’s good sleep schedule consistent 90% of the time. You don’t need to have late nights every single night. If you have a child that sleeps pretty well, meaning they get their 10+ hours and don’t wake up overnight, limit late bedtimes to once a week.
Following this rule makes it easier for your kid to bounce back after a late night and keep their good sleep habits intact. If you want to move bedtime later for the summer but you’re worried about messing up your kid’s sleep, check out this video for step-by-step instructions on how to do it right.
6. Take PJs with you
If you know you’re going to be home late from a friend’s house, bring your kid’s PJs with you so you can change your child before you head home.
Getting changed for bed will be one less thing you have to deal with when you get home. And if they fall asleep in the car, you have a better chance of transferring them to bed without waking them up.
To learn more about my REST Method, click here to join my next free Toddler Sleep Masterclass.