Kids Health

How to Keep Your Kid’s Summer Sleep on Track When It’s Still Bright at Bedtime

written by KATHY SISSON
kids summer sleep schedule"
kids summer sleep schedule
Source: @alainakaz
Source: @alainakaz

Not many things in parenthood are so sought-after and elusive than a solid sleep schedule for your child. When you’re a new mom, your Google history may include questions like, “When will my baby sleep through the night?” “When do I start sleep training?” or “Is cry-it-out really that bad?” Some kids are just naturally good sleepers, and some little ones take a lot of work to get into a good sleep routine. Once you’re in the sweet spot of baby sleep or have a consistent bedtime routine for your toddler, you don’t want anything messing with that schedule. Which is usually when something comes along to do just that, whether it be a sleep regression or a seasonal change like kids’ sleep during summer.

Glorious days of warmer temps and endless sunshine aren’t quite so magical when the sun’s rays are still blaring through your toddler’s bedroom window at bedtime—or waking them up earlier than normal. The ideal hours of sleep for a 1 to 2-year-old is 11-14 hours total, including naps. So while summer is the time of looser schedules, more fun, and frequent travel, it can also mean added stress if the season change starts disrupting their sleep routine.

We’ve pulled together a few trusted kid summer sleep hacks from our editors and experts, so (hopefully) the longer summer days won’t mean longer summer nights for you.

Meet the Expert

Michele Wawerski, MSW

Michele Wawerski is a mom, social worker, and founder of Peaceful Littles, a certified professional pediatric sleep consultant service.

Meet the Expert

Jennie Clarke

Jennie Clarke is a mom and founder of Smart Night Sleep, a certified professional child sleep consulting service.

Make Some Easy Bedroom Adjustments

A change in light or temperature can affect your child’s summer sleep schedule. Here are some ways to make sure their sleep space is comfortable.

Create a comfortable temperature

Opt for lightweight, breathable pajamas for summer, like cotton or cotton muslin. Keep their room at a comfortable temperature by cooling your home down slightly earlier than you normally would with air conditioning and circulate air with a fan, whether ceiling or standing.

Add blackout curtains (if you don’t have them already)

Blackout curtains can keep summer’s sunshine rays from keeping them up at night or waking them up too early. Plus, closing the curtains or pulling the shades earlier in the day can help keep their room cooler and comfortable, especially if your home doesn’t have A/C.

Ensure no screens in bedrooms

Finally, you’ll want to limit screen time before bed. Experts recommend that screens be shut off at least 30 minutes before sleep and kept out of kids’ bedrooms.

Get Outside More During the Day

In many parts of the country, summer is the perfect time to get outside with your baby and kids as much as possible—just remember to protect them with shade and kid-safe sunscreen. Not only does being active tire out toddlers and kids, but research shows light helps young babies set their biological clocks. If you can’t get outside, open the blinds and let the light shine in (light filtered through windows is effective, too!).

Simulate Home for Sleep During Travel

“The most helpful way to ensure your baby’s sleep stays on track while traveling is to recreate their sleep space,” shared certified pediatric sleep consultant Michele Wawerski in an article for The Everymom. “Bring familiar sleep associations from home, such as a sleep sack, lovey, or sound machine. A dark, cool environment is also beneficial to uninterrupted sleep while away. If you’re staying in a hotel where you’ll be sleeping in the same room as your baby, consider utilizing a blackout solution like portable black-out curtains or the SlumberPod.

Try to keep them in their nighttime routine as much as possible, whether that includes a bath, familiar bedtime stories, or a somewhat consistent bedtime.

kids sleep during summer
Source: @fulchersunfiltered

Keep Bedtime Consistent

It can be tempting to allow later bedtimes in the summer, but as most parents have experienced: Kids often wake up at their normal time regardless of when they go to sleep. Board-certified cognitive specialist and parenting coach Bea Moise shared in an article for The Everymom that giving in to a later bedtime can disrupt a kid’s circadian rhythm. “While minor variations, such as staying up 30 minutes past their usual bedtime, may not have significant effects,” she shared, “consistently staying up much later during the summer months can disrupt their sleep patterns.” Moise also recommends keeping a consistent morning routine—meaning they shouldn’t sleep in too late past their normal wake-up time.

Use the 80/20 Guideline for Flexibility

But disruptions are bound to happen. “Summer is for fun, right?” certified sleep consultant Jennie Clarke shared with us via email, “Naps will be skipped and later bedtimes will happen, but the 80/20 rule can help ensure your child stays well-rested.”

What is the 80/20 rule when it comes to kids’ sleep during the summer? It’s simple: 80 percent of the time, honor your child’s sleep schedule, and 20 percent of the time, you can vary from it. So don’t worry if your little one stays up a few nights to watch the fireworks or catch some lightning bugs this summer.