The summer holidays are here, and I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling this is going to be a pretty amazing summer.
Now that we’re getting back to a place where kids will be able to get outdoors and do all of those fabulous summer things, I feel like we’re all going to appreciate the summer holidays so much more.
With us ecstatic about being able to travel and getting together with friends and family, we’re probably going to be a bit less diligent about things, like our kid’s bedtimes.
Which, hey, I get it. I’m probably going to throw some rules out the window too, it kinda comes with the territory on school holidays.
What you want to keep in mind is this. A few days and nights of too much excitement and too little sleep can leave your kids in a state where they’re incapable of enjoying themselves no matter what they’re doing. With that in mind, I’ve put together a few tips to help you and your family enjoy this much-needed break while still keeping their sleep habits in check.
In many parts of the world, the onset of summer means longer days, which means that the sun might not go down until after your little one’s bedtime. As much as we’ve all gotten accustomed to artificial light, the sun is still the primary influencer of our circadian rhythm, and it’s harder to fall asleep while it’s light out.
The simple solution to this is to keep the sun out of your little one’s bedroom, which sounds like a no-brainer, right? When I say it should be dark in there, I mean dark. I’m talking pitch black. Even a small amount of sunlight seeping through the curtains can dramatically affect your child’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Luckily, there are some simple and low-cost solutions in the form of blackout blinds. In my experience Sleepy Sundays blackout blinds are easily the best. If you’re not familiar with them, you may be envisioning some hideous, cardboard-thickness monstrosity that will completely destroy the beautiful esthetic you’ve designed in your child’s bedroom, but there are a lot of really stylish options available in a whole bunch of colors, and some are even playfully patterned specifically for kid bedrooms.
Can’t afford a new set of blinds? Try taping some black garbage bags over the windows! It won’t look pretty, but how much does the feng shui of your little one’s room matter if they’re not getting any sleep?
Outdoor daytime activity during summer holidays
We want to avoid sunlight when it’s time for bed, but during the day, getting outdoors and into the sunshine can work wonders for your little one’s nighttime sleep.
Natural sunlight does a number of cool things for us. It provides vitamin D, which helps regulate our moods, it stimulates cortisol production, which despite its bad rap as the “stress hormone” is actually quite beneficial at the right time and in the right amounts, and it promotes serotonin production as well. Serotonin does two wonderful things for your little ones. It enhances their mood during the day, and at night, the pineal gland converts it to melatonin, which helps them get to sleep. So the more sunlight, especially early-morning sunlight, they can get, the easier they’ll be able to drift off at night.
If you follow me on social media, you may be thinking, “hang on, you always talk about the importance of routines and consistency! What changes in the summer?.
You would be absolutely right. I can’t overstate the importance of a consistent routine and the role it plays in your child’s sleep habits. This doesn’t change over the summer break.
Whether you’ve got your eye on exotic travel plans, local camping trips, or even just staying at home, the days off of school are almost guaranteed to throw some curveballs into the daily routine.
Now, I’m not suggesting that there’s no wiggle room here. A little leniency when it comes to bedtime is part of the magic of summer and I know nobody wants to deprive their kids of that. Just keep in mind that it doesn’t take long for problems to build on one another. Too little sleep on night one can lead to overtiredness on night two, which makes it more difficult for your child to get proper sleep through that night, which leads to even more overtiredness the next day, and so on.
If you’re going to make an allowance for a late bedtime, try to balance it out with a few days and nights of regular routine afterwards.
That will help prevent things from getting out of control and help ensure that your child’s happy and well-rested to enjoy those magical summer days.
Watch what you eat
I think the childhood summer experience was summed up eloquently by Bill Watterson in one of his classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoons. Calvin walks up to the bathroom mirror with a popsicle in his mouth, gives himself a quick inspection, and walks away saying, “It’s not summer if your tongue isn’t purple”.
Junk food is a bit of a summer tradition. Hot days are so much more enjoyable with frozen treats, fish and chips down the beach, and theme parks/markets wouldn’t be the same without some hot jam donuts and fairy floss.
Too much sugar, however, can mess with your child’s sleep. High carb/sugar intake can increase the number of night wakings and reduce the amount of deep sleep your child gets, and leave them feeling lethargic and sluggish the next day.
Seeing how they’re likely to be in and out of the house, and breakfast and lunch might not be as easy to schedule as they would be during the school year, it’s a good idea to leave some healthy snack selections out on the table. Cut up some fruit, prepare some sandwiches and cut them into quarters, dump some healthy crackers into a bowl, and let your kids grab them as they please.
As long as they’re getting the majority of their calories from a healthy source, a few ice creams and hot chips shouldn’t have too much of a detrimental effect.
Get ready for school early
Prepare yourself for the return to school.
If your child’s gotten used to later bedtimes and sleeping in in the mornings, asking them to snap back into form on the first day of school is going to be a bit of a nightmare. It’s best to ease them back into their regular schedule. The best way to do that is gradually over the course of a couple of weeks.
I see the best results from moving bedtime up by 15 minutes every two to three nights.
So if your little one is going to bed about an hour later than they would during the school year, you’ll want to allow between 8 to 12 days to get them back on track before the first day of school.
That way, they’ll be rested and ready to get back into the standard routine right from day one.
If you’re planning a trip or vacation, try to avoid scheduling it right before heading back to school so you can make the necessary adjustments.
There you have it folks! Five simple solutions to survive the summer without sacrificing your kids’ sleep schedule.
I hope it’s helpful, but more than that, I hope you all have a wonderful, magical summer. Full of fun, friends, and all the magical experiences.
If you are lucky enough to be going away on holidays this summer, feel free to head over to my blog on how to enjoy both sleep and holidays whilst you are away.