Summer’s relaxed schedule is something we all look forward to, but it can take a toll on our children’s sleep. Vacations can turn schedules upside down, day trips can necessitate early wake ups and skipped naps, and late day festivities can push bedtimes later and later.
So how can your family have a fun filled summer AND keep your children’s sleep on track?
For starters, remember these basic guidelines year round:
Make Your Child’s Sleep A Priority – Sleep is as important as nutrition when it comes to your child’s health. Lack of quality sleep has been linked to impaired growth and development, behavioral issues at home and at school, ADD and ADHD, obesity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and a host of other health problems.
Know Your Child’s Sleep Requirements – Average sleep needs vary by age (see chart below.) Don’t assume that your child needs less – their average amount of sleep shouldn’t vary from the chart by more than an hour.
Age Total Sleep Night Sleep Number Naps
1 week 16-1/2 hours 8-1/2 hours 4
1 month 15-1/2 hours 8-3/4 hours 3
3 months 15 hours 9-3/4 hours 3
6 months 14-1/4 hours 11 hours 2
9 months 14 hours 11-1/2 hours 2
12 months 13-3/4 hours 11-1/2 hours 2
18 months 13-1/2 hours 11-1/2 hours 1
2 years 13 hours 11-1/2 hours 1
3 years 12 hours 11 hours 1
4 years 11-1/2 hours
5 years 11 hours
6 years 10-3/4 hours
9 years 10 hours
12 years 9-1/4 hours
15 years 8-3/4 hours
18 years 8-1/4 hours
Respect Your Child’s Need For Sleep
Skipping a nap now and then or delaying bedtime may not drastically affect a well-rested child, but even the best sleepers have trouble tolerating erratic schedules. Know your child’s tolerance, and keep that in mind as you plan their day.
Keep It Dark
Invest in room darkening shades for your child’s bedroom and close them 30 minutes before bedtime. It will help cue their bodies for sleep, even if the sun is still shining.
Sleep Tips For Happy Travelers
Make your child’s temporary bed or crib as sleep-friendly as possible. If you’re staying in a hotel, inquire about the availability of portable cribs, “pack-n-plays” or rollaway cots. Bring along familiar items like sheets or favorite blankets and pillows to help your child feel comfortable. Don’t forget a night light, bedtime books and a monitor to listen in on your sleeping child while enjoying a grown up evening in another room.
Plan your driving times to coincide with naptime. A catnap while driving can help fill up your child’s “sleep tank” before a flight and ward off an over-tired meltdown on the plane.
Place a rollaway mattress on the floor of the hotel room to avoid middle of the night tumbles.
Are you staying with relatives? Ask them for help in locating a borrowed crib or pack and play. (Be sure they are sturdy, newer models, as older cribs may pose safety risks.)
If you share a room or bed with your child on vacation, follow safety guidelines regarding infants, and be clear with older children that the arrangement is temporary.
Keep your child’s bedtime routine as similar as possible. A consistent routine cues the brain that it’s time for sleep.
Time Zone Changes
Changing time zones can be difficult for children (and adults, too!) Here are some tips to help your child adjust to the new time.
When you arrive at your destination, switch your child’s eating and sleeping schedule to the new time as quickly as possible. This may mean getting your child up from naps early or waking him up in the morning, even if he went to bed late the night before.
Expose your child to daylight during appropriate awake times to help their body adjust more quickly.
Flights that arrive in the afternoon and time changes of less than three hours usually make for an easier adjustment.
Have realistic expectations
Even the best laid plans can lead to less than perfect results. Relax, enjoy the summer, and know that if your child’s sleep gets off track, you can get back in the swing of things easily when the time is right.
Interested in knowing more about your child’s sleep challenges? We’re planning a Sleep Success Workshop this summer at TCFAP’s Ridgefield office – let us know if you’re interested in attending.