Now that the school year has come to an end, your children are probably looking forward to the freedom of summer. Often, this freedom translates into late nights and a sleep schedule that is thrown out of whack. It may not seem like a big deal for your child to stay up late. After all, they don’t have school the next morning so what does it matter if they’re up past their bedtime? While it certainly won’t hurt for your child to stay up late occasionally, many kids lose track of their bedtime all together. There can be negative consequences for this lack of consistency, so it’s important to find a balance between summer fun and getting enough rest.
The Importance of Sleeping at Night
You might think that as long as your children get enough total sleep, it doesn’t matter when they sleep. However, this isn’t necessarily true. This is why, despite forcing an early bedtime, your kids can still wake up tired. Or, why they might be tired when they get out of bed after sleeping in all morning. Our bodies have a natural sleep cycle, and when we get too much or too little it can have negative repercussions on your body.
Keep in mind that teens, particularly when going through puberty, are predisposed to want to stay up late. It’s alright to indulge late nights occasionally, as long as it doesn’t turn into 3 am bedtimes and sleeping until noon. Erratic sleeping patterns that lead to sleeping the day away will cause your child to miss opportunities to engage in their interests, particularly non-academic ones. Since summer break often provides unstructured time for your kids, it’s the perfect chance to do something new. If they spend the summer lying in bed, they may feel like they wasted their chance to do something interesting come next school year.
How You Can Keep Them on Schedule
Since sleep is generally the most disrupted routine during summer break, it’s important to do what you can to try and keep consistency. The key is to make sure your kids are tired at the end of the day. Trying to force them to bed earlier than they want to go isn’t a task anyone wants, so if you can keep your children active during the day they might just go to bed naturally on their own. Whether you or your spouse are able to stay home with your children, or a friend’s parent is willing to let them tag along on their adventures, try to plan activities that involve getting up and moving. Spending the day at a theme park, day trips to local beaches and springs, or just going to the skate park with their friends are all great ways for your kids to use up a lot of their energy during the day.
Staying active is important, but you want to make sure that there is a certain amount of down time prior to sending them to bed. This gives them time to unwind before trying to sleep. A good rule of thumb is to make sure meals and vigorous activity end 2 to 3 hours before bedtime. Reserve the time before bedtime as something for calm activities. Family games, reading, or working on hobbies and projects are all great options that don’t require staring at a screen or running around.
By making sure your kids get regular sleep during the summer, you can keep them healthier both mentally and physically. As adults we can recognize when we aren’t getting enough sleep and can make the choice to adjust accordingly. Children on the other hand, typically don’t recognize this and don’t have the maturity or self-control to choose to go to bed earlier. So while it can be tough to plan activities and enforce bedtime, your kids need you to do so because they aren’t capable of making those decisions for themselves. Keeping them on a consistent schedule will make it easier for them to stay active during summer break and simplify the transition back to school in August.