With summer 2021 quickly approaching (though let’s be honest, here in Arizona, we’ve been sweating for weeks already) there are many of us who are ready to ditch the 4 walls of our homes that we’ve been stuck in for 18 months and spend as much time out of town (or just outside) as possible. For many parents who had babies at the end of 2019 or anytime in 2020, this may be your first foray into family gatherings, weekend travel, and long vacations with your baby in tow. The prospect of an on-the-go summer may feel equal parts exciting and terrifying, especially from a sleep perspective. Between the travel, excitement, outside play, and late bedtimes, it’s easy to for schedules and routines to fall by the wayside (be that intentionally or unintentionally).
But even though it’s summer, babies and young children still need to be sleeping well. If you’re committed to maintaining some healthy sleep habits this summer (while also living your best, non-quarantined life), it’s totally possible. With some strategic planning and firm boundaries, you can keep sleep on track this summer. Here’s how!
1. Make The Bedrooms Cool & 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 it is at night, so you may have to get a little creative here. If you don’t already have blackout curtains, I’d highly recommend a minor room redecoration.
It is also important to make sure that your child’s bedroom is cool. In the hot summer months, it doesn’t take much for the room to warm up too much during the day. The optimal temperature for sleep is between 68°-72°F. If you cannot keep it that cool in your house, consider using a fan, lighter pajamas, a sleep sack with a lower TOG and fewer blankets (where appropriate).
2. Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean you can’t continue your bedtime routine as normal. Sure, you may have a late night here and there, and your little one will likely 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 greatly help sleep stay on track. (It will also help ease the transition when school starts up again in the fall!)
3. Schedule Down Time
One of the biggest mistakes parents make during the summer is over-scheduling themselves and their children. While it is definitely important to be outside, enjoying the sunshine and plethora of summer activities – especially this summer – it is also important to prioritize rest. Babies and young children can become overstimulated very easily so it’s important to honor naps and quiet time. (Let’s be honest, we as adults need this too!)
If your child is still napping, try to have at least 30 minutes of down time before trying for a nap or going down for bed. This wind-down time can help make the transition from active fun to restful sleep a lot more easily. Giving your child’s body the 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 where 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, I promise it’s going to revolutionize behavior and attitudes in the afternoons & evenings.
4. 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 you’re staying with family members who are light sleepers. If you begin to relax your boundaries and let your little one into bed with you or begin 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 the rules at home? Maintain structure and hold firm to your priorities as much as possible and sleep should stay on track.
5. Make Summer Sleep a Priority
While summertime often means more travel, more activities, and a busier time in general, you can still make sleep a priority. 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 world of difference in keeping sleep on track. If your child is on multiple naps, prioritize having the first one at home if you can. 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 awry, that doesn’t mean that you cannot strive to keep sleep on track this summer. Be honest with yourself about what your priorities are and do not be afraid to voice them to friends and family. Enjoy the sunshine, travel, and quality time, but enjoy that sleep too!
And if the summer fun gets the best of you, I’ll be here in the fall ready to help you get back on track!