Changing Sleep and the Changing Seasons

My husband called me into the room the other day and I saw this little scene. Somebody couldn't make it through a short book--and it was in the middle of the afternoon.

Summer is here and my little 4 year old can't keep up with all the activities. He's running around from sun up to sun down (well, he's asleep by sun down, but you get what I mean). Where his sleep and daily routine were working before, now
we've had to change some things.

First we've been trying extra hard to make sure he gets his rest time each day. He sits on his bed and relaxes or reads books for a while. Next we've moved bedtime a tiny bit earlier. These two changes and he's back to not falling asleep every time he finds a cozy corner (and this is a child who doesn't like to sleep!)

The seasons bring lots of changes for kids, with light, temperature and activity being some of the most common ones I see related to sleep.
  • EXERCISE: As kids exercise more, they get more worn out. They need their rest to get rejuvenated. The opposite happens too. Some kids will start to have their sleep suffer in winter when they are doing too many sedentary activities(even if it is not TV, it can still be very sedentery). It is cold and dark out and activity seems to slow down.
  • LIGHT: Then there's light. A child that once was sleeping until 7:30 may start to wake up earlier and earlier with the sun. Black out blinds and curtains help, but some kids are super sensitive to the sun. If there's a sliver of light, they are up and ready to take on the day--much to their parent's dismay. Well, to my dismay at least. I am not a morning person. Learn more about light and sleep here.
  • TEMPERATURE: Many kids sleep better in cooler environments and their sleep will suffer in the summer if the house is kept extra warm. Some kids like the heat so you'll have to observe your child to see if temperature is making sleep better or worse. Learn more about temperature here.
  • STAYING OUT LATE: The light (and the fun time we call summer) also brings with it a temptation. It is bright out and there are fun things to do so you stay up a bit later--just this once. But it rarely turns into just this once and bedtime makes it way later and later as the days go by. Soon bedtime turns from 7 pm to 9 pm and you've got an overtired child on your hands who is missing out on some very valuable sleep. I'm sure my neighborhood isn't the only one where this slow progression happens. By the end of the summer I'm pretty sure I'm going to bed at the same time as most preschoolers in my neighborhood. It's hard to get good sleep when there is so much going on. Even I feel a bit guilty putting my kids to bed at an early hour with all the kids playing outside. It is tough to know that they are missing out on all that fun. But just like a junk food diet, I don't want my kids living on junk sleep. They need better than that.
Easier said than done, huh?


  1. Shanna @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    Good tips! I am wondering if it ever makes sense to wean them off the super dark room? We carry black out paper whenever we travel because my daughter can't sleep in a semi light room.

    1. Rachel @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      Shanna, I have done this as my kids have gotten a bit older (and also tried to do it from the beginning, if they tolerated it) because it makes it easier when we travel which we do a fair bit. Two important things to note is that many kids get better at sleeping in a lighter room as they get older (partly, I think, because they are not distracted and excited as easily by everything in their environment) and also that they will vary in how they will sleep in a light room, practice or no practice. Many adults have difficulty sleeping if there is any light in a room, even if they have plenty of practice.

  2. yls @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    You know we live in MI now and the days are long now and I find that I need to put up curtains or I'm waking up at 6 AM daily with just the blinds!
    i'm curious what his adjusted routine is? is he an older 4 or younger 4? Thanks!

    1. Rachel @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      He is almost 4.5 years old. We have blackout blinds and heavy curtains which help with the light issues, although he isn't extremely effected by morning light. I am though so these things help me sleep much better. We are putting him to bed around 15 minutes earlier, sooner if he seems to need it and giving him a little extra rest time (mainly to sit and read/look at books) during the day.

  3. syed @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    lol, fantastic, My kids are same , Worst part is sorting their personal issues with each other