Summer is here, and it is HOT. Many parents worry about weekend travel, late sunsets, and frequent BBQs, derailing the wonderful sleep routine they’ve worked on all winter. This fear is entirely well-founded; summer sleep is HARD. Between the travel excitement, increased outside play, and late bedtimes, it’s easy for schedules and routines to fall by the wayside (intentionally or unintentionally).
But even though it’s summer, babies and young children still need to get plenty of sleep. If you’re committed to maintaining some healthy sleep habits this summer (while also living your best life), it’s possible. With some strategic planning and firm boundaries, you can keep sleep on track this summer. Follow these summer sleep tips below!
5 Tips for Getting Babies and Children to Sleep in the Summer Months
Make the bedrooms cool and dark.
Since the production of melatonin – our sleepy hormone – is impacted by light, having a super dark bedroom will make it easier for your child to fall asleep and stay asleep even with the extra hours of sunlight. It should be as dark during the day for naps as at night. You may have to get a little creative here. I highly recommend getting blackout curtains if you don’t already have them. Sometimes, even that isn’t enough. I’ve worked with families using tinfoil to block the window, tacks, and tape to bolster the sides, and towels to keep out light from under the door.
It is also important to ensure your child’s bedroom is cool. It doesn’t take much for the room to warm up during the day in the hot summer months. The optimal temperature for summer sleep (or any season!) is between 68°-72°F. If you cannot keep it that cool in the house, consider using a fan, lighter pajamas, and fewer blankets (when appropriate).
Maintain a good bedtime routine.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you can’t continue your bedtime routine as usual. Sure, you may have a late night here and there, and your little one will fall asleep in the car on the way home, but when possible, giving your child the predictability of a routine to fall back on will significantly help summer sleep stay on track. (It will also help ease the transition when school starts again in the fall!)
One of parents’ biggest mistakes during the summer is over-scheduling themselves and their children. While it is important to be outside enjoying the sunshine and many summer activities, prioritizing rest is also important. Babies and young children can quickly become overstimulated, so it’s important to honor naps and quiet time. If your child is still napping, having at least 30 minutes of downtime before trying for a nap or going to bed can help your child fall asleep. Giving your child’s body a chance to slow down is important; if you told me right after I walked out of the gym that I was supposed to lay down and fall asleep right away, I’d struggle, too!
Even if your child is no longer napping, quiet time is still helpful! Plan for at least 30-60 minutes during the day so that everyone can take some time to recharge their batteries. This may not happen every day, but if you can make it a habit 80% of the time, you’ll all be better for it!
Stay consistent when traveling.
It’s easy to bend to limitations and pressures around sleep during summertime travels. Maybe you’re sharing a room with your kiddos in a hotel or staying with family members who are light sleepers. If you begin to relax your boundaries and let your little one into bed with you when this is not something you usually allow or start feeding them all night long to keep them from crying out, you can see how easily a slip can turn into a slide. Older toddlers may test your boundaries around this: are the rules at Grandma’s house the same as those at home? Maintain structure and hold firm to your priorities as much as possible, and summer sleep should stay on track when you’re back home.
Honor the importance of sleep.
While summertime often means more travel, more activities, and a busier time, you can still prioritize sleep. Each child is different in how they react to changes in their schedule and how well they will sleep on the go. Especially if your child is a bit more sensitive, giving them the best environment to sleep in as often as possible can make a difference in keeping sleep on track. If your child is on multiple naps, prioritize having the first one at home if possible. It will make for a more pleasant child as you go about your fun summer activities!
While it is true that the best-laid plans often go wrong, that doesn’t mean that you cannot strive to keep sleep on track this summer. Be honest about your priorities and not fear voicing them to friends and family. Enjoy the sunshine, travel, and quality time, but enjoy that sleep too!