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When I was a kid, summer was my absolute favorite time of year, and the same was definitely true of my teenage years. You get a chance to take a break from all the stress of school and basically do not have a single care in the world. However, no matter how awesome the summer was (and they’re usually pretty awesome), by the time September comes around both my parents and I are happy that it is over just because of one thing – that I’ll have a chance to start sleeping at night once again.
Seriously, I’m pretty sure that every summer of my life from the ages of 10 to 20, the instant school is out my body switches into my “summer sleep rhythm”, where it just refuses to go to sleep before like 4 AM or get up before noon. It was a habit that was really hard to break later in my life, and I am so glad that I did because it is really difficult to be a productive adult if you sleep through half of the day.
Furthermore, now that I have kids of my own, I am trying my best to keep them from making the same mistake, and then having to deal with it when they’re older. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different things to keep their sleep cycle in check during the summer months, and today I want to share some of the things that I have been able to learn.
A Consistent Routine
This is perhaps one of the most important items on this list, so I decided that it was a good place to start. The number one reason why I found it impossible to wake up early during the summer months was that I simply had no reason to wake up. There were no chores to do, and no one to hang out with since all my friends were staying in bed late as well. And why would there be? After all, these are the hours that I would usually spend at school, so when that goes away you’re pretty much left with a half-empty schedule.
This is why it is a pretty good idea to have some kind of schedule planned out with your kids to force them to get up early. Because even if they do somehow miraculously get up at 8 AM, once they realize they have nothing to do they’ll just head back to bed anyway. Whether it’s sports, music lessons or some other activity that they can look forward to, having these in the morning is a really great and healthy way to make sure your kids retain their normal sleep cycles.
Wear Them Out
All kids have a lot of energy, and they have to expend this energy in order to be sufficiently tired at night when it’s time to go to bed. If all they’re doing during the summer is watching TV and playing on their phones, it’s no wonder that they will want to stay up until 3 AM. They need something both that will stimulate both their bodies and their minds and tire them out sufficiently so that they actually feel like they need to sleep.
Again, sports are a great way to do this, and since it’s so hot outside swimming is hands down one of the best and healthiest sports for your kids to partake in on their summer break.
Keep it Dark
The days are very long during the summer, and this can work to your disadvantage if you want to put your kids to sleep on time. When it’s time to sleep, our bodies start synthesizing a certain hormone within our brain that’s called melatonin – and this hormone helps our bodies actually prepare for the resting process that goes on while we are asleep; our body temperature drops slightly, our heart rate and our blood pressure as well, and all of this contributes to a general feeling of tiredness.
The problem is that melatonin production is directly tied to the amount of light there is around you. This makes sense, because the brain has no idea what time of day it is and whether it’s time for you to sleep, so the best it can do is monitor the light level and judge time based on that. Therefore, what you need to do is actually take steps to make your house darker before bedtime; limit how much your kids are allowed to stare at a TV screen or their smartphones, roll down your blinds and make sure the lights are off after 9 PM. This way you can kickstart your kids’ melatonin production and without even knowing it they’ll start feeling sleepy as soon as their brains adjust to the new light level.
Adequate Sun Exposure
Speaking of sunlight, this is something that has a lot of parents around the world concerned – are our kids being exposed to too much sunlight during the summer time? Being in direct sunlight can cause sunburns and heat stroke, and this is not only extremely unhealthy, but it can also impede the brain’s ability to secrete melatonin correctly and throw your kids’ sleep cycles out of balance pretty easily.
On the other hand, getting some sunlight can actually improve the quality of sleep, so make sure that your kids aren’t inside all the time when it’s already nice and sunny outside. Just remember to regulate how long they’re exposed to it and make them wear some sort of headwear and sunscreen at all times.
Regulate Room Temperature
Our circadian rhythms are significantly impacted by how warm our bodies are, and since it’s so hot outside in the summer months cooling yourself down can be somewhat of a challenge sometimes. When it’s too hot outside, some people actually experience insomnia – they can’t go to sleep at all unless they’re in an air-conditioned room.
Because of this, you need to take any steps you have to in order to ensure that your kids’ sleeping environment is sufficiently cool during the summer, because this can impact the quality of their sleep. Whether it’s lowering the blinds to prevent sunlight coming in during the late hours of the afternoon or actually installing an A/C in your kids’ room, doing so will definitely help your kids go to sleep earlier and sleep better.
As you can see, there are quite a few ways in which you can help your kids maintain a normal sleep cycle during those few hectic summer months. As I already mentioned, it’s a really good idea to get to work on this as soon as you notice a problem, because while it’s not a serious health issue by any means, it can cause productivity problems in the future and it’s definitely harder to combat when your kids are older and have already developed a habit of sleeping in during summer. This is all from personal experience, and I dearly wish that my parents were aware of this back when I was a kid and had the same problem. I wish you the best of luck with this, and hope you succeed in helping your kids adopt and retain their normal, healthy sleep cycles.