Spring is in the air and isn’t that wonderful?! I love, love, love spring. Tulips, heat from the sun, kids outside playing hockey or riding bikes and the longer, brighter, sunnier days. I love it all.
However, last week I realized that as the days were getting longer, my kids’ bedtime was getting late. “But the sun’s still out” was the complaint, so a few extra minutes here and there, what could it hurt?
Oh…it hurt. A few days of later bedtimes resulted in cranky, tired, whiney kids. No amount of sun and exercise is worth that.
The problem is that even though Mr. Sun is out to play longer now that spring is in the air, our kids still need the same amount of sleep. The Sleep Foundation has found that toddlers (1-2 years) need 11-14 hours of sleep per night, preschoolers (3-5 years) require 11-13 hours per night and school-aged kids (6-11 years) need 9-11 hours of sleep per night.
While the thought of letting your kids play outside in the fresh air is tempting with the hope that they’ll sleep later in the morning (if they aren’t old enough for school) is a lovely thought, but we know that doesn’t work. Kids seemingly get up at the same time in the morning no matter what time they go to sleep!
Sleep is important to our kids. Although there is some scientific confusion as to what happens to the brain during sleep, some scientists believe that during sleep the brain sorts information, replaces chemicals and solves problems. No sleep leaves your kids tired, cranky, unable to make decisions. Lack of sleep can also affect growth and compromise your kids’ immune system. So, sleep is essential to happy, healthy, strong children.
As the days grow longer, bedtime is going to get more difficult. Here are a few tips to help you get your kids to bed at their regular hour:
- Routine is routine. That goes for bedtime routine, as well. If you always bathe your kids or read books to them before bed, don’t omit any part of your routine. It’s called routine because it’s expected. If you all of a sudden decide to let them play an extra 10 minutes but then skip reading books with them, they may find it more difficult to get to sleep. Routine is important.
- Keep your kids hydrated. A state of dehydration can affect your child’s quality of sleep. Ensure that you have offered your kids water throughout the day to help combat chronic dehydration. This is even more important as temperatures start to rise and more time is spent outside. Keeping your kiddos hydrated throughout the days also helps reduce the “Mooooommy, I’m thirsty” calls from doorways in the middle of the night.
- Buy blackout blinds. You can grab these blinds at most big box stores and they are a life saver. Pull the blinds before your kids come in from play and prep their rooms so that it is dark.
- Cool down the bedroom. Your kids will be running a little hotter with all of the activity and play before bedtime, so try to make their rooms cool and relaxing. Put a fan on them as they drift off to sleep, change over the flannel sheets for cool cotton and pull out the summer pyjamas. Try to give them no extra excuse to be up and about.
- Try to reduce outside noise as much as possible. As a kid there is little worse than being told to go to bed when you can hear your friends laughing and playing outside. I remember the feeling. A fan, closing the window, a white noise machine can help muffle those sounds and hopefully help your kids head off to dreamland.
- Aromatherapy. Finally, I’m a big fan of aromatherapy. I use “Dream Works” from Soulful Sister. I spray it above my kids’ bed and pillow before they come in from outside and have the soothing and calming effects of lavender and chamomile filling their room as they put their jammies on. You can use any aromatherapy, just ask someone in the know. Dream Works is my favorite by far though!
Good luck out there, Mamas. Spring and summer can be full of fun, laughter and joy so please enjoy it! Just remember the importance of regular sleep for your kids with respect to brain development, rest, growth and immune response. It’s incredibly important.
Also important…your alone time after your kids are in bed! Oh yeah…don’t even get me started on that.