In the first of our guest blog posts, we have some amazing advice from Kate of Sleep Time Baby about getting your Sleep Thieves to sleep in the summer! You can find more of her great advice at www.sleeptimebaby.co.uk.
Okay so we don’t have the most predictable summer weather in the UK and we’ve had some blisteringly hot days already, but it’s definitely a bit warmer and we all get a bit of summer cheer once the days start getting longer, plus pre school/school and other activities often stop so our lives are a bit freer. Sometimes that can cause us a few sleep niggles so read on to get my top tips for surviving the warmer and lighter summer months.
1. Keep that bedtime the same - whatever the weather!
It can be so tempting to perhaps keep your little ones up a bit longer whilst you enjoy a BBQ with friends or perhaps a later evening. Sorry to spoil the party but my recommendation is always to try and keep to a consistent bedtime
I’m not just trying to be mean, as it’s all about how the body clock (the circadian rhythm) works. Essentially if we go to bed at the same time each night (this trick helps with adult sleep as well) our body gets used to that time and starts to produce the sleepy hormone melatonin which helps us get to sleep. So if we mess around with that too much we’ll lose the benefit and make the job harder!
The second reason is one of the killers of good sleep for children - that’s overtiredness. If you do keep your child up a bit later then it’s quite likely that they’ll get overtired. Overtiredness looks like crazy behaviour in a child, either a bit more fractious or potentially getting a second wind and running round like a mad person. What is actually happening is that the body is trying to compensate as they should be sleeping and trying really hard to keep them awake! So you might find your child harder to settle once overtired and also it’s possible that they are more likely to wake in the night.
For me a good bedtime is somewhere around 7pm from about 4 months up to around 4-5 years when it can start getting a bit later, but not much.
2. Lower the light levels
Our bodies are also massively controlled by light levels, warm bright daylight wakes us up and keeps us awake and darker light helps us to sleep - makes sense eh! So with the longer days in the summer months the key is to recognising this to help your little one settle.
There is a scientific reason for this as well, it’s also linked in with the melatonin I mentioned above, so melatonin is produced in lower light levels and if you expose your child to bright light before bedtime it can inhibit the production of the sleepy hormone and can result in more difficulty settling. That’s also the reason why I recommend no screen time 1 hr before bed as the blue light from the screens also stop the melatonin production.
So the advice is to keep the light levels low 1 hr before bed ideally, so draw the curtains early and keep the lights as low as you can (obviously you need to see though!) and that should help the journey to sleep.
3. Early mornings!
One of the most common issues I deal with is early rising, it can be so tricky for little ones if they get into the habit of getting up and whilst there are lots of possibilities, one of the key ones in the summer months is about light getting into their room.
So even if you have the slightest streak of light coming through the curtains or blinds then I would really advise you to try and black it out! There are a few options on how to do it but here are some ideas
- Use a travel blackout blind behind any existing curtains/blinds
- Tape some cardboard to the windows!
- Use tin foil as it can stick on and does a great job!
4. How to try and keep it cool
The heat can definitely affect the ability to sleep, it’s also a good sleep fact that we all sleep better in a slightly cooled state so when the heat strikes here are some ideas to keep things cool.
- Make sure you dress your child in the right sleep wear - they can always just sleep in a nappy if it’s too hot
- Keep their curtains closed and windows open in the day to help keep it cool
- Invest in a fan and use that to circulate the air - make sure it doesn’t point directly at your child though. You can also put a frozen bottle of water in front of the fan to help cool the air!
- Put their bedding in the freezer for 10 mins before bed - apparently it really works (if you have space amongst the frozen peas!)
- Use a frozen water bottle as the opposite of a hot water bottle and place it in their bed 30 mins before going to bed!
So those are my top tips - I hope they help. Some sleep issues are more fundamental so if you ever want to chat you can find me here www.sleeptimebaby.co.uk and feel free to book a chat to talk more about improving your sleep situation.
The main thing though is to try and enjoy the sun and the more relaxed nature of the summer months - fingers crossed! Kate x