As a sleep consultant, I’m a big advocate of enjoying the outdoors as much as possible to help with sleep. Not only does natural sunlight help to establish and maintain the body’s sleep-wake cycle, it also provides an outlet for your little ones to get all of that built up energy out (let’s face it, they have A LOT of it), and this in turn helps them build their sleep pressure to get better rest.
However, when summer does arrive and we have more hours of daylight to enjoy, it can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle and delay bedtimes. During the summer, many little ones have a harder time winding down as their bodies are confused by all the light that’s still available around bedtime.
To combat delayed bedtimes and restless sleep, here are my top 5 summer sleep tips!
- With so much sunlight extending well beyond your little one’s bedtime (sometimes it doesn’t get dark until 10 pm!), it’s really beneficial to have blackout blinds or black out curtains to block the sunlight out when it’s time for a nap or night sleep. The darkness will promote the production of melatonin, the hormone our brain produces in order to help our bodies prepare for sleep. If there is a lot of light entering into the room at bedtime, it may block the production of melatonin, and in turn, this might make it more difficult for your little ones to fall asleep.
- You can make small changes to your little one’s schedule to accommodate the summer months. For example, if your little one is waking up earlier because of the sunlight, you may want to start the day slightly earlier. If your little one is enjoying a pool day, or at the park with friends and you want to delay nap time slightly, you can push nap and bedtime back by half an hour as well to enjoy more daylight and also give your little one a chance to build sleep pressure (be careful to only try these changes if your little one isn’t a sensitive sleeper and can tolerate minor schedule changes).
- Adjust the temperature in the room if needed. It’s best to keep a cool but comfortable temperature, ideally 18-20 degrees Celsius or 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use a fan to help circulate airflow through the room.
- Adjust your child’s bedding and clothes to be summer friendly. Switch out flannel to a more summer friendly fabric like cotton or linen, and choose sleep sacks and blankets that are more light weight and lighter fabric. If your little one already sleeps with a blanket, you can consider putting them in short sleeve pajamas as opposed to long sleeve.
- As part of our Circadian Rhythm (our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle), our internal temperature drops slightly as bedtime approaches. During the summer when the temperature is high and there’s more humidity, this natural drop in internal temperature becomes a little more difficult. To help with this, a bath with slightly cooler water before bed can really help.
With more daylight hours and higher temperatures in the summer months, using these tips will help your little one fall asleep more easily, and avoid feeling tired and less refreshed during the day. Aim to strike a comfortable balance so that your little one can enjoy the outdoors and socializing, but also get their recommended hours of daily sleep for their physical and mental well-being.
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant, Founder of Gentle Dreams
Disclaimer: The information/advice provided in any form of communication by Gentle Dreams is not a substitute for medical advice. The advice is for informational purposes only and is intended for use with common sleep issues that are unrelated to medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or the health and welfare of your child.