Connect for Children

Heidi Emberling, MA, Parenting Educator and Early Childhood Specialist

Summer Sleep Troubles July 13, 2011

Filed under: Sleep — Heidi Emberling @ 11:33 pm

Seems like a lot of families are struggling with sleep issues during the summer months, when daylight lasts into the evening, schedules are varied, families are traveling or hosting visitors, and routines are different from the school year norm.

Children thrive on predictable routines, so it makes sense that sleep patterns are often disrupted by our more diverse summer plans. Here are some tips to help navigate changes in summer sleep, keeping in mind the only three areas we, as parents, can control: environment, schedule, and routines.

Environment

-Make sure the room is dark, either at home with black-out shades, or, if traveling, use extra blankets or towels to drape over those lighter hotel blinds.

-Bring your child’s favorite white noise sounds or music CD with you while traveling, for comfort. The same is true for a favorite crib bumper, sheet, or pillow (or pillow case).

-If you’re traveling, but your child is staying home, leave a favorite nightshirt that you’ve worn several days before you leave. Your child can snuggle with it while you’re gone.

Schedule

-Some families move the evening schedule earlier or later even before they leave home. In this way, the child is already “adjusting” to the new time zone before you even board the airplane. Also, some families allow the child to sleep in a portable crib in their own room a few days before traveling.

-If you can, keep your child’s regular nap and bedtime schedule intact while traveling. This can be difficult, but it is one way to support a regular sleep schedule while away from the comforts of home.

Routines

-If you know your child will be up late, move the entire evening routine later. This means, eat dinner a half hour or hour later, followed by a later bath time, pj’s, teeth brushing, and story reading. Bedtime schedules begin with dinnertime.

-If your child has difficulty falling asleep or wakes up in the middle of the night, have a consistent sleep plan in mind to implement right away.

Remember that travel is most difficult for the toddler crowd. They are too young to sleep anywhere/anytime in a baby carrier, but may not be old enough to be amused by coloring books or videos. Toddler need to move, so long airplane or car rides are particularly challenging for this age group. Be prepared!

Many children will need 3-5 days to re-adjust to the environment, schedule, and routines at home when you return from travel. Be consistent with your sleep plan, and they will fall back into predictable patterns quickly.

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