Brighter, warmer and humid summer nights can make it more difficult to sleep, especially for babies and toddlers. With help from Millpond Sleep Clinic, we’ve put together these top tips to help your children sleep during warmer weather.
Stick to regular bed and wake-up times
Encouraging a regular time for sleeping and waking up helps to synchronise everyone’s body clock and children are no exception. Try to make sure they go to bed and wake up within an hour of the same time every day, including weekends. This helps everyone get into a healthy sleeping and waking routine.
Keep the bedroom cool
Warm temperatures can mean more time awake and lighter sleeping at night. The ideal temperature for a bedroom or nursery is around 18C. It can be tricky to keep cool indoors during the summer, so these tips may help:
- Use light or no bedding
- Dress your baby or little one in light cotton sleep wear
- To stop heat building up in their room during the day, shut windows or blinds and keep the windows closed if it’s hotter outside than in. During the night, if the outside temperature becomes cooler, open the windows.
- Use a fan, placed at a low level near a window to help cooler air circulate at night.
- Help cool your little one by using a cool flannel on their forehead or feet. Cooling their feet will help cool the rest of their body.
- Take a cool shower, or bath and then rest your baby on top of their bed to dry off. This will help reduce their body heat and make them feel sleepy.
- Use a cool water spray over their bed to cool the air. Keep a clean plant-spray bottle beside the bed or cot to use at night.
Keep it dark
Everyone’s biological clock is regulated by light and brighter, lighter summer nights can make it difficult to trigger sleep time. To help, make sure your little one gets plenty of light during the day (though avoid too much direct sunlight). Then make sure their room is as dark as you can make it at night as darkness triggers the ‘sleepy hormone’ melatonin.
You may want to invest in a blackout blind, like the Gro Anywhere Blind to help block out early evening and bright morning light. And avoid things like televisions and computer screens which produce bright, artificial light at night.
Make time to relax
In the half hour before bedtime, encourage your little one to wind down and do something relaxing. Read or listen to a story together.
Stick to your guns
Be clear and consistent when it comes to a bedtime routine with your little one. When you say two stories, make sure you mean it. If your child knows what to expect, they’re less likely to argue.
Establish a bedtime routine
About 30 minutes before your child’s bedtime, do the following:
- Give them a warm, relaxing bath lasting about 10 minutes. This pre-bed bath shouldn’t be playtime.
- Take your little one from the bathroom into their nursery or bedroom, don’t go back into the living area.
- Keep any lights in the room dim.
- Read a couple of stories or listen to a story together.
- Say goodnight and leave your child to settle to sleep. All being well, this should happen about 15 minutes later.
Choose the right bedtime snacks
If your toddler wants a bedtime snack, choose foods such as banana, warm milk, oat biscuits, whole grain cereals, eggs or chicken. These kinds of foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan which is thought to encourage drowsiness.
Encourage outdoor exercise
Research has shown that increased physical exercise can help promote sleep. Toddlers are normally pretty keen to be active, so playing outdoors for 20-30 minutes three or four times a week can help encourage them to sleep. But try not to engage in too much energetic exercise within three hours of bedtime.
Children love to know when they’ve done something right, so praise them every morning when they’ve kept to the sleep ‘rules’. You can encourage them with a special trip or small reward.
This advice has been adapted from tips written my Millpond founder Mandy Gurney and first published in Prima Baby magazine.