Sleep has been elusive for so many people over this past year with the pandemic, especially for children and teenagers. Disrupted schedules, fear and anxiety about the virus, and not being able to see friends and loved ones for so long took a serious toll on even the most sound sleepers.
Even though school is currently winding down, typically leading to a more lax sleep schedule for kids, some may still struggle with the challenges that summer brings–such as longer daylight hours and lack of a regular routine.
Here are the hacks that she recommends for helping your child to fall asleep and then stay asleep through the night:
1. Set a good example.
“If parents are having a hard time relaxing and sleeping, kids often see this and may also struggle,” says Dr. Elton. Model good sleep hygiene for your children by setting aside work and devices before bedtime so they see you are committed to getting a healthy night’s rest. Put your pajamas on when they do and wind down together.
2. Stick to a schedule.
Try to keep roughly the same sleep schedule in the summer as during the school year, especially for younger kids. A standard routine at bedtime and when waking up can help them to feel less anxious. Definitely relax though for weekend nights and time spent on vacation.
If your child has a hard time with the light coming through windows during summer hours, invest in some blackout curtains or shades to create a cozy, darker feel.
3. Tire them out.
“Make sure your child is getting enough physical activity during the day to tire them out,” advises Dr. Elton. There are endless summer activities to keep kids busy and wear them out before bedtime. Take a hike, go for a bike ride or swim, try a new sport, or take a dance class. Doing a less intense, but still physical activity, just ahead of sleep could also be helpful, like walking around the block a few times.
4. Turn off screens.
With so many kids and teenagers having been on screens and devices for an unprecedented amount of time this past year, dialing them down for the summer is probably a good idea. Encourage reading, simple arts and crafts, building Legos, or games before bed. Also, Dr. Elton says that the blue light from tablets, phones and computer screens can decrease production of the hormone melatonin which is needed for sleep.
One additional tip is to make sure that your child’s bedroom is cool enough and well-ventilated at night as summer temps start to heat up.
If your child or teenager is having severe sleep issues or anxiety, please contact us here for an appointment with one of our pediatric specialists.
Child Neurology Consultants of Austin has experience treating a wide range of neurological conditions in children and teenagers from 0 to 21 years old.