It’s 11 p.m. and I’ve just tucked my children into bed after a late-night summer party at a friend’s house. The day was filled with outdoor play, sugary snacks and making new friends - just as a summer day should be.
But as I bask in the beauty of the laissez-faire summer lifestyle, where routines are tossed and sleep becomes scarce, I know I’m witnessing the calm before the storm.
As my kids flopped into bed - still half-dressed and teeth barely brushed, I kissed them goodnight knowing at that moment that I was also kissing my morning goodbye. I know that when they wake up, they will be irritable and irrational.
I know, because I’ve been there before.
Let’s face it,as soon as school’s out for the summer, schedules seem to go out the window. For many families, the end of early morning school drop-offs and after-school activities, signifies the end of the monotonous school-year routines. And while it’s alright to loosen the reins and let them run free during the summer months, it’s important to remember that kids still need their rest.
Longer days and shorter nights make bedtime routines next to impossible for parents, but more light shouldn’t mean less sleep.
Normally, I’m a stickler for sleep, even though I live in a state of dozy denial as a mom of three (I’m lucky if I log more than five hours of sleep per night myself).
During the school year, sticking to a strict sleep routine is obligatory - both for my kids’ health, and for my own sanity. Not only am I protective of my kid-free evenings, but I know the perils of putting them to bed late. Even an hour past bedtime results in a dreadful morning, riddled with whining, grumpy faces, and an unwillingness to cooperate. It’s not fun for them, and it’s certainly not fun for me.
During the summer months, I tend to be a bit more lax, but I try to find a balance between a virtuous versus a vicious sleep cycle for my kids. Convincing them to commit to a certain amount of shut eye is a challenge, but the key is compromise.
They can negotiate a bump in their bedtimes, as long as their wake-up times follow suit, and on the days when an early-morning waking is required, proper bedtimes are non-negotiable.
Why am I such a snore when it comes to summer sleep schedules for my kids?
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that children ages three to five receive 10 to 13 hours of sleep, and children ages six to 13 receive at least nine to 11 hours of sleep. Ensuring that kids get enough shut eye during the summer months can make a big difference when it comes to their cognitive development.
Sleep deprivation not only results in tired and cranky kids, it can affect their overall cognitive performance, and has been linked to increased sedentary behaviours and obesity. The less sleep kids get, the less active they become (because they’re so tired), and the less active they are, the less sleep they get.
Keeping your kids outside and active, and ensuring they receive enough sleep will result in happier, healthier kids.
It’s ok to be more lenient during the sunny season, but don’t abandon your child’s sleep schedules completely. When possible, make sure they get adequate rest so they can keep up their summer stamina (and you can keep your sanity).
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.