How Kids' Sleep Changes During Summer Holidays
Get ready, parents. The summer holidays are almost here. Kids’ schedules and routines can go straight out the window; the same window that’s still filling their bedroom with sunshine at 9pm. But don’t worry – we’ll help each other through!
Summer’s probably the best time of year for every child (even if they insist it’s Christmas).
The freedom to watch hours of lazy morning TV, instead of getting ready for school, pouring oversized bowls of cereal to eat over a round of computer games – heading out into the sunshine, to find new places to explore.
The days are long, and so are the bike rides. The barbecues and paddling pool parties never seem to end, and neither do the ice lollies. It feels like anything goes.
And then, bedtime rolls around. But the sun’s still out – and the sound of kids playing late into the warm evening fills the air.
As a kid, it’s really hard to go to bed when the normal day-to-day schedules are gone. It feels unfair to have to get into bed when the sun’s still out.
Then there’s the heat, making bedtime sticky and sweaty, without much relief beyond a noisy fan that tickles your hair as it blows.
As parents, we know how our kids’ sleep changes during summer holidays. But every year, they get a little bit more independent. Even when we know what to expect, there’s always a hint of the unexpected.
How can we make bedtime fairer and easier for everyone during the summer holidays, without a shock to the system when the new school year starts?
Plan ahead and play fair
To keep things running smoothly once school starts again, it helps to plan ahead a little bit.
But try not to worry too much about sticking to the “normal” routine. Things are going to change, whether you plan to the minute or not at all. It can be hard either way. Cut everyone a little slack – including yourself. Taking the stress out of it can make even the hottest, brightest bedtime seem easier.
Just try to keep a broadly similar routine in the summer holidays as during school: home by a certain time, screens off by a certain time, dinner, wind down, bath – keep it largely the same.
You can offer extensions on when the bedtime routine begins, gradually increasing to a maximum, defined limit over a couple of weeks.
This does a few things: most importantly, it makes you seem super cool and fair. It also avoids a big, overtired, overstimulated shock to the system and a very difficult road back to normal when the summer’s over.
As the new school year draws in, start winding it back a little bit at a time, until you’re closer to an ideal school night bedtime. It’s probably not going to make you as popular as you were at the start of the holidays.
It’s going to be a tough sell to most kids, especially if it interrupts their social calendar. This rollback has got to be done gradually to avoid a sudden shock – and lots of upset. The defined limit set at the start and a couple of weeks to ease it in are going to help, though.
But even with the best plan in place, you’ve got another obstacle at bedtime. An enormous, blisteringly hot, unbearably bright obstacle.
How to block the sun in kids bedrooms
Light has a tangible impact on sleep. It’s why we find it easier to sleep at night, wake up naturally when the sun rises, and why we’ve suddenly got all kinds of filters and screen dimming apps on smartphones.
When longer days mean the sun’s out at bedtime, we know it’s going to make sleep more difficult.
Most blackout blinds – be they made-to-measure or off the shelf – are no match for a south- facing window in the height of summer. Annoyingly, they’re somehow the go-to solution for darkening a room when much better alternatives exist.
Suction cup blinds (they stick directly on the window pane) block out far more light than a roller blind or curtains. And even thick curtains (as long as they have good downward and lengthways coverage) are more useful for blocking light out of kids’ bedrooms.
There’s the tin foil trick – where you line the inside of your child’s bedroom window with foil – but this looks truly awful, and we’ve heard horror stories of the heat from the sun smashing double glazing lined with foil! Plus, it’s useless once you open the windows to let cool air in.
And that brings us to the next issue: heat.
How to cool down kids bedrooms
A good set of curtains will go some way to reducing the greenhouse effect in children’s bedrooms during the summer months, but only if kept closed throughout the day.
Opening windows after the hottest part of the day, and getting good airflow through a couple of windows in different rooms can help, too.
But when things get super sticky and uncomfortable, a fan (placed out of reach) offers the best relief. Try not to have it blowing directly over them, unless it’s the only way to get comfortable.
Some can find it hard to sleep without the security of a blanket or duvet, so give them pure cotton kids bedding to wick away sweat and keep things as cool as possible when bedtime comes.
And don’t forget how great a cooling bath can be at the end of a long, hot day of play! Far from acting as a refresher, a cool bath will soothe the heat and make falling asleep sooner far more likely.
Cool, comfy kids bedding – from Pea
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