From the expert: How to keep everyone rested over the summer

sleep summer Jun 08, 2022

From our resident scholar and sleep expert Lily Horbatiuk of Lil Baby Sleep

Sleep can be disrupted by so many factors. You will always run into something that will mess with sleep…like the summer, when there is more daylight (which means delayed melatonin secretion and more bedtime struggles for everyone). But, if you’re prepared, know what to do and your baby is rested and has some great skills, nothing can ruin sleep for you.

Here’s some tips on how to ensure great sleep this summer!

Make bedrooms dark

Delayed bedtime is the biggest sleep disruption we see in the summer due to more daylight. The sun is out later in the evening and earlier in the morning, which triggers the brain to slow down melatonin production and making sleepy kids that need sleep but are wide awake!

The solution to this is darkness: Cover windows, dim lights at least one hour before bed, and even though it’s sunny, darken those rooms. Blackout blinds, blackout film on windows— whatever you can do to make that room pitch dark. Even just a few rays of sunlight coming into the room can trigger the brain to wake up before it’s time. Believe it or not, tiny, luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle—even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes…so keep it dark in there!

Stick to the schedule

Summer’s a time for fun, friends and barbecues, and time might get the better of us, meaning dinner might be late and bedtime pushed back. This is okay! Sleep cycles tend to shift back by 30 minutes during the summer. But the key here is to try stick to the same bedtime schedule as much as you can. It’s so important for both children and adults to set their sleep wake cycles by consistently going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.

There’s an 80/20 rule that we like to follow that says stay well-rested 80% of the time so that 20% of the time you have flexibility in your schedule and can adjust with little sleep “hangovers” or tantrums.

Stay active during the day and wind down before sleep

You want to keep your children active during the day, but as bedtime approaches, you’ll want to start winding down and relaxing their bodies and minds. Avoid lots of physical activity and stimulation close to bedtime. Establish a routine that has a period of relaxing, dim lights and a chance for the body to rest. We cannot expect to go right from activity to sleep without a cool-down period. Yes, that means turning off screens, too, so engage in a quiet activity before bed.

Get direct sunlight in the morning

As soon as your baby wakes up, take them to the window, open the blinds and expose them to natural sunlight. Whatever time you expose them to sunlight, food or social interaction, it becomes the signal to their bodies and biological clocks that it’s daytime and thus the body will wake up naturally at that time.

A nice walk outside in the morning is always great to get that sunshine (but remember to always use sunscreen and protection against the sun).

Keep cool

As well as cuing your brain to wake up or go to sleep, light (and darkness) can also cue the brain to start regulating temperature. As it gets darker your body temperature begins to drop in preparation for sleep.

Your brain requires your core body temperature to drop 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit in order to achieve sleep, which means your room temperature should always be between 18 to 22 degrees Celsius. You might have to adjust bedding to more summer fabrics (i.e., cotton), and always go for a lighter fabric swaddle or sleep sack for the summer. A fan in the room is also helpful in keeping a baby’s room cool and conducive to great sleep.

It's important to note that body temperature is at its lowest at around 1am to 3am, so you also don’t want to have it too cold and have baby waking up at that time (although this is a very common wakeup time as we start to see the transition to light sleep from then on and the body begins waking up).

All in all, the key to staying rested during the summer months is balance. There will be hiccups, of course, but if your baby is well-rested going into it and they have the ability to fall asleep independently, then you can feel confident that they will be largely unaffected. Keeping these five tips in mind will only strengthen your sleep habits and avoid any unnecessary interruptions.

Happy sleeping and happy summering my friends!

Lily (@lilbabysleep)

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