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How to Get Your Kids to Sleep When the Sun Is Still Up

child crying in crib.jpgSummer is the perfect time for family fun. Warm weather and long, sunny days mean plenty of opportunity for picnics, ball games, and of course, vacation.

However, most parents know that summer has a downside: the sun setting so much later in the day (the sun sets as late as 8:30 in June.) makes it harder to maintain kids’ bedtime schedules. Here’s what you can do to balance out the sleep-stealing effects of summer sun and fun.

When Do Kids Need to Go to Sleep?

When kids don’t get enough sleep at night, it can have far more serious consequences than just a case of the morning grouchies. Sleep deprivation in children and teens has been linked to behavioral problems, poor school performance, emotional issues, and health problems such as obesity. The National Sleep Foundation recently updated its recommendations for how much sleep kids really need. Here’s the ideal amount of sleep by age for kids:

    • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11 to 14 hours per day (including naps)
    • Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10 to 13 hours per day
    • School Agers (6-13 years): 9 to 11 hours per night
    • Teenagers (14-17 years): 8 to 10 hours per night
    • Young Adults (18-25 years): 7 to 9 hours per night

little boy eating ice cream cone.jpgSticking to a regular bedtime (regardless of how light it is outside) can help ensure that kids are getting enough shut-eye. Calculate bedtimes based on what time your kids get up each morning using the chart above. For example, a seven-year-old who has to get up at 7am to catch the bus to daycamp should go to bed between 8pm and 10pm. Adjust on an individual basis–if it typically takes Junior a little while to fall asleep, or if your kid really does best with 11 hours of sleep, aim for the earlier end of the spectrum.

Creating the Perfect Sleep Environment

If the fact that it’s still light outside at 9pm is making it hard for your kid to fall asleep, there are several things you can do to transform their bedroom into a cave-like environment that’s conducive to quality snoozing. Blocking out light, drowning out sound, and nailing the right temperature are key.

    • Consider investing in a sleep machine, sometimes called a white noise machine. These often take the form of small, radio-like boxes, though there are some specifically marketed for kids. What it looks like doesn’t matter as much how it sounds. Look for machines with several different sound options so you can experiment and find what works best for your child.

Blackout curtains in child's room

    • Get some kids blackout curtains. Room-darkening curtains are available in varying degrees of light blockage, with blackout curtains offering maximum darkening power. Today, they come in a wide selection of kid- and teen-friendly designs. Bonus: they also help muffle outside sounds.
    • Dial back the thermostat. Did you know that the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees? This allows the body temperature to drop, a requirement for initiating sleep.
Should You Worry About Screen Time?

As a parent, it’s virtually impossible to escape various facts (and opinions) about kids and screen time. If your child is having trouble sleeping, those gadgets may actually be to blame. A study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that watching a screen, such as a TV, video game, computer, or phone in the two hours before bedtime makes it harder for kids to fall asleep. Consider implementing a “no screens before bedtime” rule and see if it helps in your home.

While it may take a little work to get kids into a healthy sleep routine this summer, the payoff is well worth it. Everyone will have a lot more fun on their various, sun-soaked adventures if the kids are well-rested.

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