Amid summer vacations, now more than ever kids are soaking up the summer sun. From sleepaway camps, vacations, daytime activities, and s’mores by the campfire, schedules are jam-packed and becoming more relaxed and care-free.
As a result, consistent sleep schedules are tough to manage for both parents and children alike. Inconsistent sleeping schedules, coupled with summer’s scorching temperatures and longer daylight hours, make it difficult to obtain enough restorative sleep.
Recommendations & the Importance of Sleep for Kids
The amount of sleep needed varies by age. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids between 3-5 years of age get 10-13 hours of sleep a night, 6-12 year old’s get between 9-12 hours a night, and teenagers between 13-18 get 8-10 hours of sleep a night.
Studies show that kids who consistently get the recommended amount of sleep have improved learning, attention, behavior, academic performance, and overall physical and mental health. Unfortunately, CDC researchers have recently found that over 70% of high school students are not getting enough sleep, and nearly 60% of middle school students did not meet sleep recommendations.
How Is Sleep Impacted During the Summer Months?
Sleep is especially worsened over the summer months. In fact, a handful of studies have shown that children experience shorter sleep duration and more fragmented sleep during the summer months. In addition to shorter sleep duration, studies show that children take longer to fall asleep during the summer’s brighter (and longer) evenings.
Even small changes to sleep duration during the summer months may have profound effects on overall health and wellness. For example, one study found that adolescents who obtain even 1 hour less sleep than the recommended average may experience a significant increased risk of obesity. Emerging evidence now shows that children are even more likely to return to school after summer vacation with weight gain due to changes in summertime activity, diet, and sleep-wake schedules.
Some experts believe that summer schedules are similar to weekend schedules. To understand why summertime contributes to changes in behavior, researchers recently compared weekend day (less-structured) versus weekday (more structured) behaviors in elementary children. They found that structured weekdays, unlike summertime, may help protect children by regulating compulsory daytime physical activity, limiting calorie intake, reducing opportunities for excess screen time, and allowing for consistent sleep-wake schedules.
At least minor sleep disruption is expected for kids during the summer. Fortunately, researchers have shown that the more knowledgeable parents are about the importance of sleep, the more likely their children are to sleep better.
To kick-start your journey to better sleep, we’ve compiled a list of simple and evidenced-backed tips to help support your entire family’s summertime sleep.
How To Get Sleep Back On Schedule
- Consistency is key. Keeping a consistent sleep and wake schedule is essential for supporting optimal sleep patterns in both kids and adults. It’s also important to remember that kids naturally have a circadian rhythm (also known as an internal clock) that is more likely to be phase delayed – meaning they tend to fall asleep later and wake up later than adults. This delay is even more pronounced in teenage years as their bedtimes continue to shift. Think about allowing your children to go to bed later during the summer months, but ensure their bedtime and waketime is still consistent – even on weekends!
- Think Dark or Dim. Excessive bright lights too close to bedtime may amplify kid’s natural phase delayed circadian rhythms. Pull down the shades, dim any bright lights in the 3-4 hours before bed, limit excess screen and computer use, and perhaps even try out a sleep mask before bed. The darkness will signal the production of melatonin and prep the body for sleep.
- Keep Cool. Summer can sometimes mean sweltering overnight temperatures that aren’t conducive to sleep. Although the recommended sleeping room temperature range is between 60 and 67 degrees, it’s important to remember that the right temperature for you is likely unique. If you frequently wake up too cold or too hot, adjust the thermostat accordingly.
For more tips on how to get the family’s sleep schedules back on track, visit our recent article where we explore 8 Tips To Fix & Reset Your Sleep Schedule.
SleepScore Labs Solutions
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