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Getting Your Kids To Bed When It's Still Light Outside

When I think back to my childhood, I remember summer vacations as the best time of the year. The days were long, the skies were sunny, and the grass and flowers were bright and vibrant.

As a parent, I still love summertime, but I also find myself with some conflicting views. The warm weather is great, until the house gets uncomfortably hot. The grass and flowers are beautiful, but ugh, how all that pollen aggravates the kids’ allergies.

And the long days invariably bring about the timeless question, “Why do I have to go to bed when it’s not even dark outside!”

It’s a fair enough question. Humans are programmed to sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light out. Our brains set our circadian clock based largely on how much blue light our eyes absorb during the day. (Here’s a neat article from National Geographic if you want to examine the science behind it.)

Unfortunately, we’re not designed to run on less sleep in the summer, so regardless of what time the sun sets, your kids still need to hit the hay at their regular bedtime.

It’s up to you to outsmart Mother Nature and convince your kids that, whatever might be going on outside, inside the house, it’s time for bed. (Don’t worry; it’s easier than you might think.)

Start dimming the lights before bedtime.

About two hours before your child’s bedtime, start pulling the blinds and turning down the lights in all areas of the house; not just your child’s bedroom. If they’re still seeing sunlight shining through the bathroom window while they’re having their bath or brushing their teeth, they won’t recognize the cue that it’s time for bed.

Do this gradually up until bedtime in order to simulate the sun going down. Your kids’ brains won’t be fooled by a sudden light-to-dark transition. A little bit of pseudo-nightfall every twenty minutes or so will create the most convincing effect.

Block out the sunlight.

Okay, I realize this isn’t exactly breaking news, but the best way to avoid the sun’s rousing rays is just to stop them from entering the bedroom.

I know most parents shudder at the thought of putting tinfoil or garbage bags up in their kids’ windows, (and rightly so) but don’t fret. There are plenty of decent blackout blinds available these days that are plenty fashionable, budget-friendly, and come in a variety of colors. Ikea has some really nice ones for under $15, and they’re easy to install.

You might also consider a white noise machine if your child is bothered by the sounds of birds or patio-dwelling neighbors. (My youngest boy actually enjoys falling asleep to quiet static on his clock radio.)

Stick to your schedule!

With all of the exciting activities that the summer days afford your kids, you’re almost definitely going to hear some pleading for later bedtimes; more so if you’re away on a family vacation.

Don’t give in.

Your kids are expending a huge amount of energy now that they’re not sitting in their classrooms, or cooped up in the house, and they’re doing it in hotter weather and getting plenty of sun. If anything, they need more sleep than they do at any other time of year.

Watching your kids enjoy themselves is euphoric for us as parents, I know, but they’ll get much more enjoyment out of their summer days if they’re well rested and energized from a proper night’s sleep, so stay consistent!

In short, summertime is wonderful, but cranky, unrested kids are a nightmare, so resist the temptation to let them stay up until the sun goes down. You’ll be glad you did, I assure you.

If you’re looking to get your child onto a regulated sleep schedule, check out my Sleep Sense Program. It’s got everything you need to get your kids looking forward to their bedtime routines and sleeping 10-12 hours a night!

The Sleep Sense Program

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Dana’s Sleep Blog

Straight talk about sleep, parenting,
babies, toddlers, relationships… and
just about anything else!
My blog is a great place to find opinions, advice, the occasional rant, and some great videos about sleep.

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