by Karen Martin
Summer days can be so much fun with outside and water play! But summer nights can be a bit harder to manage with small children. Toddlers up to 3 years need approximately 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period and kindergarten aged children up to 6 years need about 10-13 hours.
With heat and long sunshiny days it can be a bit more difficult to get to sleep at night. Our body’s circadian rhythm is influenced by exposure to light (sunlight especially), and darkness triggers our body to make melatonin-the hormone that makes us sleepy. Long summer days can delay melatonin production, making it harder to fall asleep at night.
Melatonin production is also related to body temperature. About two hours before sleeping our core body temperature starts to drop a bit, contributing to the feeling of being sleepy. Research has indicated that best temperature for sleep is approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius (or a bit little more for infants).
So falling asleep during these long hot summer days can be pretty difficult and a bit frustrating for tired parents and children.
What can we do?
First try to regulate the lighting in your home as much as possible. About two hours before your preferred bed time, pull the curtains and make the light as dim as possible in your home. Consider getting some room darkening curtains to use in the summer months. You should also try to limit screen time as you move toward bed time, studies have indicated those can also delay melatonin production and keep us from getting sleepy.
A bath can before bed time can also help influence that core body temperature and help get relaxed before sleeping time. Use a fan in the bedroom at night to help keep temperatures lower and comfortable for sleeping.
As always with young children routine is important to help let the body and mind know its time to wind down and get to sleep. Set up a predictable routine that ends with some quiet time for closeness and comfort to help your child sleep as well as possible.
And finally give yourself and your child a little grace. Hot summer days can be fun but also a bit trying when there are still so many things that need to be done.
Referenced information can be found at The National Sleep Foundation (sleepfoundation.org)