As kids, we were excited about summer vacation: no school, no homework, just relaxing and fun for three months. Fast-forward to you being the parent; summer vacation is not as exciting. Without school, what are your kids going to do all day? Sleep the days away and stay up all night? Without the structure of school, your kids’ sleep schedules can be completely nonexistent during the summer months. But all it takes to provide some structure for summer break is some good old-fashioned consistency. Below you'll find some ways to keep kids on a sleep schedule while still allowing them to enjoy their vacation.
Set a summer bedtime
Because kids don’t have anywhere they need to be every day, they would stay up all night if they could. But just like during the school year, kids need a bedtime. Set a summer bedtime and a wake-up time, too. It is okay to let your kids go to bed later and sleep in a little, but within reason. Setting these times is a way to make sure they don't stay up all night and sleep their days away.
Every parent knows that kids somehow tend to have so much energy come bedtime. To help them get to sleep, give them a late-night snack that promotes sleep. Foods like cherries, strawberries, tomatoes, and milk contain melatonin, which is what the body naturally releases when it is tired. Helping the body into its naturally tired state can help your kids fall asleep faster.
Keep them active
Help them sleep by getting them involved in summer activities. There are camps that will keep the kids active during the day – great for them and handy if you work outside the home. You can send them to a summer camp that focuses on a specific activity, like a sport or performing arts; ask your friends on FB for some reccos. Summer camps usually have the schedule and structure that is similar to a school schedule. Keeping your kids busy and active during the day can tire them out, so they are wanting to go to bed at night and can wake energized.
Help them stay cool on muggy nights
While getting ready for sleep, the body releases melatonin and the body temperature decreases; making the bedroom cool can help the body cool off faster. Sleeping in a cool room during the summer months can be a challenge, depending on where you live. Running your air conditioner all night is not your only option. Because the temperature drops at night, opening a window to get a nice breeze can be all they need. You can also use a fan on low to circulate the cooler air around the room. Between 60° and 68° is an ideal temperature range for sleeping.
Travel time = Nap time
Traveling tends to mess up everyone’s sleep schedule, especially when traveling to a different time zone. To help kids cope better, try keeping their naps and bedtimes the same as if they were at home. This may help avoid the possibility of having a whiny, tired child because they didn’t get enough sleep. You can bring something that your child sleeps with at home, like a stuffed animal or blanket, which can make sleeping more comfortable for them. Also, plan your summer vacation travel times so that you're in the car (or on the plane) during naps and bedtimes, which can make traveling with a child easier and quieter.
Summer vacation can also bring an increase in sleepover invites. Sleepovers can be one parent’s night off, but another parent’s nightmare. Sleepovers usually mean all-nighters, never-ending sweets, and cranky kids afterward. If you are the hosting family, set rules for things like last call for snacks and bedtime. Making the kids go to bed and cutting off sweets can lessen the chance of all the parents having sleep-deprived children to deal with for the next few days. If you are the parents with the night off, you should prepare for a sleep-deprived child the next day. Try foregoing sweets the day afterward, because chances are your child overloaded on sugar during the sleepover. Also, allow a short nap, if necessary, and then get them to bed at the normal time. The sooner you can get your child back on schedule, the less time you have to deal with an ornery child.
Back to school.
About two to three weeks before school starts in the fall, begin adjusting the bedtime to allow for a full night’s rest with the designated wake-up time during the academic year. Every day, move their bedtime up by 15 minutes until you have reached your goal time. This slow transition will make getting up earlier easier for them and you.
When it's summer, sleep is usually the first thing everyone foregoes to fit in as much fun as possible. We hope that these suggestions will make sure that your kids have the energy to enjoy every minute of their summer vacation and also to help you cope.
Want to improve your family's sleep all year-round? Check out our tips for making sleep a high priority for the entire family!