Just like that the longest days of the year are here. Oh sun, how I missed you this winter!
At the same time though, I also am noticing my toddler’s bed time is creeping later and later. I’m not sure whether it’s because of me – maybe my own enjoyment of the summer evenings and desire to spend more time with my little girl after work – or if she is less interested in an early bedtime because the days are so long? Maybe it’s a mix of both?
I am really enjoying the extra hour of sleep in the mornings, so this change is totally working for us. But I can’t be the only parent seeing this change in the kids’ bedtime. What does it mean for the older kids?
Summer can be a challenging time for children of all ages to get enough sleep thanks to the lingering sun, and also because it can be a busy time of summer camps, which do not always leave a whole lot of opportunity to make up for lost sleep. Has your child’s bed time been pushed back lately? Are they resisting going to bed? If so, have they been able to make up for lost sleep by sleeping in or taking naps?
The sun helps set our circadian rhythm, AKA our internal body clock. Just the presence of light is a cue to our bodies that it’s time to be alert. Shift workers often struggle with sleeping after night shifts due to the morning sun exposure on their way home from work. In the winter I like to cosy up inside after dinner, get sleepy in the evenings and tend to go to bed earlier, but in the summer I have more energy in the evenings, love being outside enjoying the weather and wind up staying up later.
Sleep is important to all of us (check out my blog post about making my own sleep a priority) but it’s crucial for children of all ages – especially teenagers – to get enough sleep. I think we all know the less sleep our kids have the crankier they are, but in addition to that did you know that kids and teens who sleep less tend to gain more weight, are more stressed out, and are more likely to have problems with their behaviour and health? Yikes!
So, during the summer months, it becomes extra important to practice healthy sleep habits with our kids. There are many things you can do to help offset the disruption the sun causes to our kids’ circadian rhythms. Starting at least a half-hour before bed time:
- Come inside, draw the drapes and dim the lights. Consider using a “black-out” blind in your children’s bedrooms.
- Keep activities calming: Share stories about the day, read books, have a soothing bath.
- Avoid using any screen devices before bed as the blue light from these actually disrupt our circadian rhythm. So turn off all TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones, video games, e-readers – anything with a screen.
- Maintain your child’s usual bedtime routine.
(Keep in mind – some of these things are good for you too!)
Do you have any other tips in helping your children get enough sleep during the summer months? We’d love to hear them!
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- Dial 311 (within Halton) or 905-825-6000 to talk with one of the public health nurses. We’re around Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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