Are the summer holidays damaging your kids’ sleep patterns?

summer holidays

A lack of school routine could be affecting your little ones in more ways than you might think

A set sleep routine goes a long way to improving your sleep health. While we sleep, our body repairs, restores and rejuvenates for the day ahead, and going to bed and getting up at the same time every day maximises your chances of experiencing a solid chunk of high quality sleep each night. This is particularly important for children, whose bodies are continually growing and changing.

Which is why the summer holidays can be a time of concern for many parents. Without the regular routine of school it’s all too easy for children to lose any sense of a set sleeping pattern, and recent research suggests this could be causing significant damage to their overall health.

In fact, recent Irish research suggests that children who stay up late during the summer holidays could be impacting their mental wellbeing, increasing stress levels. Irish paediatric sleep expert Lucy Wolfe also suggests that poor sleep could be a factor in conditions like childhood obesity, diabetes and difficulty learning.

Wolfe comments: “Now that the summer holiday is upon us, the inclination to allow bedtimes to start later and to have a more relaxed attitude to sleep is appropriate, but not at the expense of the child getting less than what is advised.

“Some of the problems with a later bedtime are that although many children will sleep later in the morning to make up the difference, the vast majority of children will not and as a result, will get less sleep.”

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children aged between three and five should be aiming to get 13 hours of sleep per night. For children between the ages of six and twelve, 10 to 12 hours of sleep is recommended, while teenagers should aim for 8-10 hours of sleep a night. It’s important to try and encourage your little ones to stick to these guidelines, even when they don’t have to wake up early for school.

What can you do to maintain your child’s sleeping pattern during the summer?

Establish a regular wake up time

Even if they aren’t waking up as early as during term time, your children should still have a consistent wake up time. CEO of The Children’s Sleep Charity, Vicki Dawson, says: “Make sure that they get up at the same time each day, even at weekends. Having a regular wake up time is important in order to strengthen your child’s body clock.”

Maintain a routine even when away from home

If your summer includes a trip abroad, try to maintain a routine when away too. If your little one’s usual nightly ritual is bath, story, bed, do the same thing every night when you’re away. You should also pack familiar items like a teddy bear to provide comfort in new surroundings.

Introduce a wind down period

Avoid screens for an hour before bed time, as these can interfere with your child’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin and make it harder to drift off. Instead, introduce a wind down period involving jigsaws, colouring or stories.

Keep the bedroom cool and dark

We all know that the temperature rises and the days get longer during the summer, and this can make it trickier for your kids to fall asleep and stay asleep. Blackout blinds are good investment during this time of year, as these can help keep the room cool and dark during the day.

Build up a routine slowly

If your child’s routine has already gone out the window, start again from scratch and build a sleep schedule slowly. One option is to spend the last two weeks of the holiday gradually moving their bedtime forwards by 10 minutes every night. By the time they return to school, they’ll be back to their usual routine.

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