By Janelle Kent, Certified Sleep Consultant at Fais Dodo Sleep Solutions
Special days, outings and events can be wonderful, but when your lovelies are falling to pieces by 4 p.m. because of missed naps and too much sun, the whole hysterical situation can make you wonder if those memories are worth all of the tears.
Regularly missed naps and late bedtimes lead to a sleep debt, which means that your little ones may not be getting the rest that their growing and developing bodies and minds need.
Even though summer fun and activities are in full swing, try to maintain the schedule that works to keep your children as rested as possible whenever you can.
Perks to having strong sleep foundations and routines
Establishing a strong sleep foundation early on will pay off in the long run:
- Healthy sleep habits facilitate the gradual shift back to earlier bedtimes if they’d gotten later during the summer.
- If there is an occasional special day out or late evening, your independent sleeper will bounce back more quickly and be back on track after a day or two.
- Oftentimes, children with strong sleep foundations will recognize their cues of tiredness and accept bedtime even if it is still light out.
Everyone’s situation is unique, so here are a few scenarios and sleep points that may apply to you:
When you are still working and the kids are in care
If your little ones are still in daycare or summer camps while you are working, you will want to maintain the regular sleep schedule as much as possible.
While it can be more difficult to get kids to bed when it’s still light out, it’s important to keep a fairly consistent bedtime so you won’t have to drag them out of bed in the morning. If it is hard to get them out of bed in the morning, it means they aren’t getting enough sleep.
Try to minimize exposure to light, both natural and artificial, for at least an hour before you expect them to lay their heads down and fall asleep. It’s no easy feat, but if you can find wiggle room in the routine for some reading time or doing other low-key activities in a darkened room, it can go a long way to helping their bodies prepare for sleep.
When you are not working and can flex the schedule
If you’re at home, you can try to create a later bedtime and later morning wake up. This should be within reason of course, and your little ones should still be well rested.
Most children won’t sleep longer in the morning just because they are going to bed later. If this is the case with your little ones, the later bedtime isn’t going to be a viable option. You will want to maintain their schedule as best as possible to avoid a state of chronic overtiredness.
Try to spend at least one hour before bedtime doing things in as low light as practicable to help cue their bodies to get ready for sleep.
If you have shifted their schedules successfully, make sure that two to three weeks before school starts you gradually get back to the bedtime and wake-up time that you need to maintain during the school year. This way, you can avoid dealing with all of the challenging behaviours that occur as a result of their overtiredness.
When naps get missed
Naps can be missed and pushed back from time to time, but missed sleep is forever lost.
But what if your little ones seem to be able to handle missed naps well? The accumulation of missed sleep will take its toll and can manifest in different ways for each child. So if your toddler suddenly starts misbehaving when they wouldn’t have normally or your baby is suddenly wary of anyone but mom, look back over the past days and weeks, and you may find that lack of sleep has everything to do with the new behaviours you are dealing with.
When your baby can sleep anywhere
Babies can spiral quickly if they miss out on sleep, so do your best to provide them with time and space to sleep you’re when out and about. If you are out late or during regular nap time, bring a play yard if possible and set baby up somewhere to get the rest they need in a safe place. After 4 months, many babies won’t sleep well outside of their own sleeping spaces.
Lucky you, if you have a toddler who doesn’t fight sleep! If this is your reality, please give them a space to do so when you’re away from home. And do remember, naps in strollers and car seats can take the edge off but will not provide solid rest.
When your toddler refuses to nap on the go
For toddlers who fight naps, make the best of the situation and plan to leave earlier. If that’s not possible, be prepared to deal with the behaviours and moods caused by fatigue in the days following the big night out or busy day.
How to ease the bedtime transition after a late night activity
Whether they fall asleep in the car or not, you don’t want your little ones to catch a second wind going through their bedtime routines and end up being awake even later than anticipated.
Before you leave a late night event, brush teeth and put on PJs so you can get your little ones to bed as soon as you get home.
Remember, most children won’t sleep in because they stayed up late the night before. In fact, you may find they wake up even earlier.
Whenever possible, stick to your children’s bedtime routines for consistency. This jogs the memory and sets the tone for getting their bodies ready for bed. It also makes it easier for things to fall back into place when it’s time to get back into the school grind.
In addition to maintaining the routine, you may also
- be mindful of the amount of caffeine your child is consuming, if any, as this will invariably impact their sleep.
- swap out the thick “winter” blankets for something lighter if your house is warm during the day or at night.
This is but a season in your life. Your children will get older and their daytime and night-time sleep needs will change as they grow. It is important to remember that sleep is a vital part of your child’s health and wellbeing. Providing them with the space and time to sleep when they need it will only cramp your style for so long, so please make sleep a priority.
Healthy sleep for you and your baby are vital to your family’s well-being. If you and your baby are struggling with bedtime, a Certified Sleep Consultant can help!
Janelle Kent, director of Fais Dodo Sleep Solutions, is a certified infant and child sleep consultant based in Calgary, Alberta. She believes that quality sleep is paramount to family units thriving. With extensive professional experience working with children and three little ones of her own (a 4-year-old and 2-year-old twins), Janelle is passionate about helping children and families get the sleep they need and deserve. Janelle offers a variety of sleep support packages, and her services are offered remotely via phone and email consultations.
* All content provided in this blog article is for informational purposes only. In no case shall Fais Dodo Sleep Solutions Inc., our directors, employees or shareholders, be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, nor for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.