It's that time of year where the sunshine stretches later and later, interrupting our carefully kept bedtimes and making our kids' sleep schedules non-existent. It's a struggle to get kids to bed when the sky is still awake, but they need their sleep more than ever! In fact, the National Sleep Foundation recommends children aged 6 to 13 need between nine and eleven hours of sleep per night. It may seem like an impossible task, but I've put together some easy tips to help get those kids to sleep.
- 1. Sleepy Environment. Kids need their routines, and when the sun gives them the impression that you're putting them to bed early, you have to do your best to black out the sun. Blackout curtains are a great way to take your children from day to night with the drawing of a curtain. The sound of neighbors playing, fireworks, or night games can be drowned out by the soft sounds of a white noise machine. If you're wondering what white noise is, in simple terms it's a specific sound frequency that blocks out ambient noise. When used to promote healthy sleep, it has been shown to block out sounds that make it difficult to fall asleep, and might interrupt sleep. These, in addition to your regular bedtime routine, can help your children get some sleep!
- 2. Go Tech-Free. Too much technology (especially video games) before bed can result in sleep deprivation. Children who spend more than 150 minutes being stimulated by technology at night will experience a delay of almost 40 minutes in falling asleep! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents shut off screens after 7 pm, to give your kids' brains time to unwind from the stimulation. Turning of screens and winding down with books or imagination games will help your kids fall asleep faster and sleep better.
- 3. Keep it Cool. Did you know that our sleep patterns respond to temperature as much as light and sound? Kids can have trouble falling asleep in summer if their bedrooms are too warm. Consider cranking up the AC when it gets close to bedtime. Put your little ones in light cotton jammies instead of the full-footsie pajamas they favor in winter, tuck them in with light blankets instead of a heavy duvet, or put a fan in the room. A cooler room will help your kids slip into a deeper sleep.
- 4. Help Your Kids Relax. Kids, like the rest of us, can start to run their stressors through their heads as their minds try to settle for bedtime. When cortisol, our stress hormone, is triggered at night, it results in trouble sleeping. A great way to lower cortisol levels before bed is to include a short "relaxation time" in your kids' bedtime routine. This could be a bedtime journal, a stuffed animal kids tell all their troubles to, or an honest conversation with mom and dad. Research groups, including the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Foundation, recommend relaxation techniques such as performing deep, slow abdominal breaths or imagining positive scenes like being on a beach to help a child relax. Addressing their stress before bed will relieve anxiety and improve your child's sleep.
- 5. Wear Them Out With Physical Activity. Getting your kids to exercise in the summer heat might sound difficult, but it's as easy as a trip to an indoor trampoline park. An hour or two of jumping helps relieve pent-up energy, as well as increasing cardiovascular health and leg strength. Kids will love the freedom of jumping across a floor of trampolines, and when they're finished, they're sure to fall into bed. Just remember to stop play three hours before bed, or the kids might be too wired to fall asleep.