I have a lot of parents come to me around this time of year, worrying and wondering about their child’s sleep schedule. The days are getting longer, it is starting to get warmer outside, and the sun doesn’t set until much later in the day. With that, comes more outside play, outside activities and sports, and the difficulty to get our kids to come inside and get to bed at a decent hour.
So, what do you do? Should you just let your kids be free and let the routine go right out the window? The short answer is “no”. There is still a month and a half or so left of school, and it is so important to make sure that your child is still getting the adequate number of hours of sleep that they need each night. Keep in mind, that sleep aids in your child’s growth and development, affects their moods and behaviours at home and at school, and allows their cells to repair at night so that they are restored to start the next day.
But wait, before you close out this article in frustration, hear me out about the tips to keep your kid on track for the rest of the school year, while also having some fun at the same time!
5 Sleep Strategies
First, be consistent with their bedtime. If every day their bedtime is different, then your child will not know what to expect nor will their body. Children thrive on routine and predictability. It helps them feel safe and secure because they know what is coming next. Plus, their circadian rhythm or body clock, will not know what to do if their bedtime is an hour or two different every night. Pick a bedtime and stick to it.
Second, pick a decent hour for their bedtime. Now that you know how important it is to be consistent, making sure to choose a bedtime on the earlier side is crucial. It is a common misconception that children will sleep better when they go to bed late, or that they will sleep later. This may be true for a few days, but after that, the child will start to accrue “sleep debt” from not getting enough hours of sleep each night. Aim for a bedtime between 7-8 pm for our younger school-aged children and 7-9 for the older school-aged children. Keep in mind that most children need between 10-12 hours of sleep per night.
Third, keep their bedroom dark. Especially during these longer, sunnier days. Dimming the lights before bedtime, and closing the blinds a bit can all help with melatonin production. Making their room dark at bedtime can assist with falling asleep at a decent hour and staying asleep in the morning when the sun comes up super early. The light that creeps in at bedtime and in the morning, can all greatly affect your child’s ability to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Fourth and Fifth, limit screentime before bed and make sure that they follow a bedtime routine each night. The blue light emitted from our screens can greatly affect melatonin production, so end screentime at least an hour before bed. Next, make sure that your child follows a routine before bed. For our school-aged children, implementing reading a book, journaling or meditation can all be wonderful ideas to add to your child’s bedtime routine. These activities help to cue the mind and the body that it is time for sleep.
Now, I can hear all the parents out there yelling at me saying, “But this is no fun!” or “my kids don’t listen.” Boundaries are a part of being a parent and setting them at bedtime is part of the job, whether we like it or not. And as summer comes, I like to let my families in on a little secret… the 80/20 rule. 80% stick to the consistent bedtime, and 20% go and have some fun!
Sleep is a necessity to thrive and develop. Sleep debt in children can affect their mood and their development, causing hyperactivity, crankiness, moodiness, and lack of interest in activities over time. So, try and keep it consistent and keep it early. It will benefit everyone!
Missy Morrison Charko is a Certified Sleep Sense Consultant and Founder of Say Yes to The Rest Pediatric Sleep Consulting. She resides in British Columbia with her husband and two young children. She provides private sleep consultations within the Thompson-Okanagan Region and remotely across Canada and the USA. You can visit her website: sayyestotherest.com for more information or follow her on Instagram.