Longer Days, Less Sleep?
By: Jenn Kelner, CPA, CA
Certified Child Sleep Consultant
When we moved the clocks forward a few months ago and gained an hour of light in the evening, I had a hard time convincing my 5 year old daughter that even though it was suddenly light outside at bedtime, that it was still bedtime. I was able to show her on the clock that it was indeed her bedtime, but what happens when you have a baby or a toddler who can’t tell time? How do you get them ready to go to sleep at their proper bedtime?
With the longer days comes more daylight, and while it puts us in a good mood and promises warm days of Summer, it can make going to sleep a little challenging for our children. To ensure your children get the sleep they need and stay well-rested, keep these simple tips in mind.
Even though it’s light outside, dim the lights inside.
When the lights are dim or off it signals to the brain that sleep is coming, so our bodies begin to produce a sleep inducing hormone called melatonin, which helps us get drowsy and stay asleep longer. By dimming the lights, you help the brain and body wind down and prepare for sleep.
Power down before bed.
The artificial bright light from electronics, including video games, computers and television, enhances alertness and delays the production of melatonin. Eliminate all forms of electronics at least 1 hour before bed to help your child fall asleep at their regular bedtime.
Keep a consistent bedtime routine.
It’s important to implement a consistent bedtime routine so that the brain and body can recognize that sleep is coming and prepare for it. Sleep cues, like brushing teeth and reading a bedtime story, will help your child get drowsy, even if it’s still light outside.
Keep a consistent schedule.
Having a consistent bedtime and wake-time every day will set your child’s internal biological clock, or circadian clock, to a consistent schedule. This consistent schedule will put your child’s brain and body on a healthy sleep-wake cycle, which will make it much easier for them to fall asleep even if it’s light outside, and they’ll feel much better rested when they wake up in the morning.
Blackout curtains are your new best friend.
To keep out the early evening light and increasing early morning light, hang some blackout curtains in your child’s room. In a pinch or when travelling, garbage bags and painter’s tape work great too. You may also want to limit the use of night lights or projecting images to help signal to the brain that it’s time to sleep.