Iowa Sleep Blog

Overcoming Challenges to Summer Sleep

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Summer Solstice – the longest day of light in the year in the Northern Hemisphere – will arrive on Saturday, June 21. Late light at this time of year encourages us to stay awake longer, often making it difficult for children and, sometimes adults, to get a full night’s sleep.

Most children resist going to bed when the sun is still shining. Yet they often persist in waking up in the early morning no matter how late they have been up the night before. Sometimes children want to sleep in after a late night on days when morning activities, such as camp or day care, make this impossible.

These situations can lead to sleep deprivation and disruption of circadian rhythms – the body’s internal clock.

Children who don’t get the sleep they need often display more fragile emotions, less resiliency and general crankiness. Parents coping with such children typically find themselves more sleep deprived than usual.

The consequences of getting poor and insufficient sleep are serious for both adults and children. Sleep deprivation in adults has been linked to a higher risk of developing depression, substance abuse, weight gain, heart disease and diabetes. Lack of adequate sleep in children can lead to problems such as hormonal disruptions and mistaken diagnosis of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

So what can be done to help children and adults get the sleep they need on summer nights when late light frequently interferes with sleep? Try these recommendations from various sleep experts:

  • Set a modified yet consistent summer routine that keeps bedtime and wake times within an hour of your family’s regular schedule
  • Conclude large meals and vigorous activity at least 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Avoid TV and computer time right before bed
  • Turn off handheld devices and remove them from the bedroom
  • Establish relaxing pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath, light bedtime snack or 10 minutes of reading 
  • Darken the bedroom, especially if it is still bright outside, with black-out shades or curtains
  • If you have air conditioning, set it to the ideal temperature for sleeping – 62-72 degrees Fahrenheit
  • If you don’t have air conditioning, use fans to circulate the air, dampen hair to help cool off, and try using pillow cases that have been cooled for a short time in the freezer  

How do you keep everyone in your family well-rested all summer long? Share your ideas here.