For many kids, summer break means staying up late and sleeping in, whether they’re having sleepovers with friends, camping or just enjoying warm summer nights.
There may also be mornings when they still have to get up early, such as to go to the sitter or day care.
With all these variations in the daily routine and bedtimes, it’s easy for kids to not get enough sleep.
And when kids aren’t well rested, they may:
- Have trouble focusing or paying attention
- Be overexcited or jumpy
- Be irritable or fussy
- Have difficulty controlling impulses or emotions
If your child is extremely moody, defiant or grouchy with extreme reactions to minor events, consider whether a lack of sleep is the cause.
While some deviations in bedtime are to be expected during the summer break, try to keep a fairly consistent schedule.
How much sleep does my child need?
Children and teens need much more sleep than the typical 8 hours recommended for adults.
School-age kids require 12-13 hours each night, while those in middle school need about 10-11 hours. Teens, especially younger teens, should get 9 hours.
“However, these are averages and your child’s individual needs will vary slightly,” said Dr. Greg Omlor, a pediatric pulmonologist at Akron Children’s Hospital who also specializes in sleep disorders.
5 summer sleep tips
Dr. Omlor also recommends these 5 strategies to help your child get a good night’s sleep:
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine that prepares the body to settle down. This can include reading, taking a bath or shower, having a light snack or listening to soothing music. Avoid music that is hard driving or fast.
- Make sure the room is dark, especially if your child goes to bed while it’s still light out. It’s OK to have a small nightlight for younger children who might be afraid of complete darkness.
- Avoid caffeine after dinner. This includes chocolate and chocolate milk.
- Don’t allow a TV in the bedroom or watching too close to bedtime, as many programs can get kids excited or upset, making it difficult to wind down. The same goes for video games, computers and other electronic devices.
- Create a soothing bedroom environment. If there’s a lot of noise from traffic or a barking dog, a fan or white noise machine can drown out distracting sounds.
Staying up or sleeping in over a period of time resets our body’s internal clock, also known as circadian rhythm. If your child’s schedule has varied significantly from his usual school routine and he’s staying up or sleeping in much later than normal, it will take as long as 5 days to get back on schedule.
So when it’s time to go back to school, give your kids a few days to return to their regular sleep schedule before the first day of school.
“It’s hard to change our circadian rhythm quickly,” said Dr. Omlor. “Kids need at least a few days before the start of the school year to adjust.”