Summer is fully upon us, readers! But while warm temps and fun outdoor activities are great, those long, lazy days of summer may be seriously messing with your baby or toddler’s inner sleep clock. Over the summer, many babies start crying at bedtime and resisting sleep even more than usual. It’s also common for toddlers to stop staying in bed and falling asleep much later, trying to tell you, “I’m not tired!”
So frustrating – but not really unexpected, if you think about it. The sun goes down so late these days, and since your baby or toddler can’t exactly read the clock, it’s no wonder your little one is resisting bedtime. It just doesn’t feel like bedtime, with all that bright light streaming through the windows!
Today, we’ll take a look at how you can “tame” the summer bedtime beast, and help get your baby or toddler to bed at a reasonable hour. Keep reading for details!
Taming Summer Bedtimes: Maybe Your Baby Or Toddler Really Isn’t Tired
Now, it’s important to remember that there are two possible reasons your baby or toddler is resisting her normal bedtime over the summer:
- Your baby or toddler really is tired and ready for sleep, but is fighting it due to long summer days and fun summer playtime.
- Your baby or toddler really isn’t tired at her usual bedtime; the longer days and shorter nights have reset her internal clock.
It’s important to make the distinction, because each of these demands a different response.
Taming Summer Bedtimes For Your Baby or Toddler
Once you know why your baby or toddler is resisting bedtime more than usual this summer, you can decide how to respond.
If you think your baby or toddler really isn’t tired enough for bed at his usual bedtime, then one option to deal with the bedtime delay is to simply embrace them. Set up a “downtime” routine in the evening, in which your baby or toddler works on puzzles, looks at book, or does some other quiet activities. Set bedtime 30 minutes to an hour later than usual, and allow this quiet time to be a long, slow wind-down before you finally put your child to bed. Doing this will reduce frustration for both of you.
Just keep in mind that even with a later bedtime, toddlers in particular may still resist. If your child is testing you, make sure you set firm limits for your toddler and return him promptly to bed, without much interaction. Anything too positive or too negative will make it a game and he will continue to be a “jack in the box.”
If you know that your baby or toddler really IS tired at her normal bedtime, but is simply resisting sleep, then you’ll definitely want to take steps to get your child in bed at the usual time, in order to ward off overtiredness. Here are two things you can try to make sure bedtime happens when it’s supposed to happen:
- Have your child nap earlier: Depending on the age of your baby, you can try shifting naps earlier so your baby or toddler is more tired at bedtime, which (ideally) will mean she will sleep regardless of the sun being up. (Of course, you don’t want to time the nap so early that your child is overtired by bedtime…it’s a delicate balance.)
- Darken your child’s room: To promote an earlier bedtime, AND sleeping later in the morning, try darkening your child’s room using room-darkening shades. Be advised, however, that the results of darkening your child’s sleep environment aren’t instantaneous. You need to start your quiet and darkened activities up to an hour before bedtime, and you need to allow at least a few days or a week for the room-darkening to re-set your baby’s sleep clock. It can be difficult to fool our bodies into thinking it is dark at bedtime, when it’s not, but with consistency, it can help. Having a darkened room does extend night sleep later in the morning, too, since those room-darkening shades will prevent early-morning sunlight from waking your child.
Late Summer Bedtimes and Summertime Traveling
Now, keep in mind that if you plan to travel this summer, having a later bedtime can definitely make it easier to soak in the sun and enjoy all the people and sites at your destination. So keep this in mind if you really do think your child can get by with a later bedtime, and if you have lots of summer travel plans. You can actually make the later bedtime work for you, in these cases.
If you do embrace a later summer bedtime, know that when summer ends, bedtimes will (most likely) naturally get earlier again. As summer turns to fall, you’ll want to watch for cues that your baby or toddler is getting overtired, such as more crankiness or behavior problems, waking up even earlier in the morning, or numerous night wakings, and set bedtime accordingly.
Note that if you “lean in” to these shifts in bedtime (allowing bedtime to be later in the summer, and then reeling it back in once summer ends), you may have a few days of transition time in which your baby or toddler seems a little bit cranky or out of sorts as she adjusts to the new schedule.