For parents one of the best things about holidays is catching up on much-needed rest.
But for children, going to bed late and then sleeping in for hours on end can be really disruptive to the sleep routine that you’ve worked all year to get right.
Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum told HuffPost UK: “Keeping a sleep routine over summer can be really tough. Light nights, heat, holidays and excitement about not being at school can make even the best sleeper spring wide awake at strange times!”
So if you’re struggling to maintain your child’s sleep routine, here are seven tips from experts on how to make sure back to school in September isn’t a nightmare.
1. Have a regular wakeup time.
Undoubtedly one of the best things is not needing to set an alarm, but this can be troublesome for children.
Vicki Dawson, CEO of The Children’s Sleep Charity, said: “Make sure that they get up at the same time each day, even at the weekends. Having a regular wake up time is important in order to strengthen your child’s body clock.”
This doesn’t have to be as early as it is during term-time, but making sure it is consistent is key here.
2. Keep the routine familiar, even away from home.
Keeping a familiar routine also applies if you’re going away on holiday, as unfamiliar environments can make it more difficult for children to settle at night.
Freegard said: “Keep to the same routine you follow outside of summer - bath, story and so on. [Your] children take their cue from you.”
And if you are going on holiday, Freegard recommends taking familiar items like a favourite teddy or sleeping pod so children are comforted and know these are their sleep signals.
3. Have a wind-down period before bed (without screens).
If you are struggling to keep your child’s routine fairly consistent, despite them seeming tired, make sure you aren’t allowing them to do more activities or have screen-time later than you normally would do.
“Plan wind-down time in the hour leading up to bedtime. Hand-to-eye co-ordination activities are helpful such as jigsaws, colouring and craft activities. Avoid screens in the hour before bedtime, they interfere with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin making it harder to nod off,” said Dawson.
4. Make sure they are not overheating during the night.
If you manage to get them down on time but struggling to keep them there through the night (both at home during a heatwave or abroad), you might want to check that they aren’t getting too hot.
Freegard said: “If the heat is so intense your child needs to nap in the day then go to bed a little later, let them. Hotter countries follow this sleep pattern.”
5. Keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
Just as heat is a factor to consider during the summer holidays, your child may also be confused because the sun is up much later and rises much earlier. Even for adults this requires a period of adjustment.
Dawson said: “Black out blinds can help your child to get a good night’s sleep in the summer months. Having consistent lighting in a room is important and the early morning sunshine can wake some children.”
They also keep the room cooler, says Freegard.
6. If the routine is completely gone, start again slowly.
For those whose routine has completely gone, don’t force yourself to adopt overnight, have a gradual plan of action.
Dawson recommends planning over the last couple of weeks of the holiday to gradually move bedtime back by fifteen minutes every three nights, she said: ”[Do this] until your child is going to sleep at their regular bedtime by the time school start.”
7. Don’t get too worried about it.
It’s a pain to have to re-do all the hard work but ultimately, your child will get back into their routine (it might just involve a few tears first).
Siobhan said: “Remember to follow nature. Animals and birds sleep for fewer hours in summer so if your children want to too, don’t worry. The key is not to stress and to ensure you’re getting enough sleep too so you can cope.”