Summer Sleep Tips for Frazzled Parents

Summer brings lighter evenings and warmer nights, plus school holidays, which means less structure, more chaos and, if you’re lucky, overseas travel. For parents, this often means wired kids that simply can’t or won’t sleep come nightfall and then overtired or grumpy kids come morning.

Thomas Høegh Reisenhus, TEMPUR® sleep specialist and sleep counsellor, says: “Summer is synonymous with travel, activities and fun. Ask any parent though and they’ll have a horror story about summer holidays with the kids – most of which can likely be linked back to their child’s sleep routine.

“Overtired kids are unhappy kids, and unhappy kids make for unhappy parents, so it’s important to arm yourself with some simple tips and tricks to ensure that your child – and you – get quality rest this summer.”

From hot weather and inconsistent bedtime routines, through to when and what your child is eating, read on for our guide to ensure your kids sleep soundly this summer…

Keep kids occupied in the day

An oft-overlooked part of enjoying quality sleep is feeling tired enough to fall asleep in the first place, and the same goes for your kids.

So, rather than letting kids or teenagers lounge about by the pool all day, sign them up to a kid’s club, take them on a hike, test their skills on the tennis court, or head to the beach and enjoy some body boarding or a sandcastle building competition.

The more fun-packed the day, the easier the bedtime routine. Don’t forget to apply and re-apply sun cream liberally and keep your children out of the sun when it’s at its strongest – there’s nothing worse than your child feeling unwell due to sunstroke or finding it difficult to get to sleep at night due to the discomfort of sunburn.

If you are happy for them to stay up as late as you whilst on holiday, that’s totally fine too. There’s no point battling your way through bedtimes and early morning rises whilst on holiday, so don’t stress over letting your kids stay up and wake later if that makes them happy and makes life easier for you. But try to get them into a habit of having an afternoon snooze to both recover from the previous late night and replenish ahead of the evening’s fun. Blackout blinds are a must to encourage children to sleep during the day, as is a cool bedroom temperature (18 degrees), and plenty of activities ahead of the nap to tire them out. In true Spanish style, aim for a siesta after a big lunch as the digestion process will make them feel naturally sleepy and it will also coincide with the hottest part of the day when you want to keep them out of the heat.

Be food wise

There are many ways to promote a good night’s sleep and what you eat is one of them. Some foods and drinks contain high amounts of magnesium, tryptophan and melatonin – antioxidants and nutrients that help enhance sleep.

Magnesium effectively reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, so upping your child’s magnesium intake by encouraging them to eat bananas, legumes like beans, lentils and pulses, and whole grains such as wholemeal bread and brown rice will help promote a better night’s sleep.

Similarly, the ‘sleep hormone’, melatonin, helps to regulate your internal body clock and signals it’s time to prepare for sleep. Melatonin-rich foods include nuts and seeds, grains, and various fruits and vegetables (asparagus, cucumber, broccoli, cherries, tomatoes and corn).

Foods that are rich in the amino acid tryptophan are also great options. Lean proteins such as turkey, and oats contain high levels of tryptophan, which the brain converts into serotonin, which relaxes the body ready for sleep. Similarly, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout contain Vitamin D and healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help to regulate serotonin levels in preparation for sleep.

Don’t eat too close to bedtime though – if you are abroad and eating later than usual, ensure that your child enjoys their largest meal at lunchtime, and stick to snacks in the afternoon, with a small plate of fish, veg and fruit as their evening meal.

Similarly, whilst hydration in hot weather is vital, restrict liquids before bed to avoid any disruptions from accidents, night terrors triggered by a full bladder, or night-time trips to the toilet.

Night-time routine

Whilst it’s commonplace for sleep routines to be disrupted whilst on holiday, it’s important to ensure your child still enjoys a solid wind down routine each night.

A bedtime routine will help prepare them physically and mentally for sleep and it should always include similar elements. For example, a bath, a warm drink, a bedtime story or book, a song or a snuggle can all help soothe your child and promote relaxation before bed, signalling that it’s time for sleep.

If your child is still caught up in the excitement of the day, a sleep meditation track can work wonders to calm their busy mind. There’s a whole host of child focused content – channels, playlists and podcasts – available online, free of charge.

And don’t forget to pack your child’s cherished bedtime toy or comforter.

Sleeping in hot weather

Whether in the UK or abroad, sleeping in hot weather is challenging at any age.

If your kids are struggling to sleep in the heat and humidity, don’t be afraid to let them sleep in their underwear – or even with nothing on – and with just a thin sheet for comfort. If they prefer the comfort of sleeping in pyjamas, make sure they are made from a breathable fabric like cotton, and even try placing them in the fridge for an hour or two before bed so that they feel refreshingly cool come bedtime.

Remember that the optimum bedroom temperature for sleep is around 16-18°C. Avoid relying on air conditioning at night time, which will make the bedroom too cold, and can even make kids unwell. Natural ventilation is always best – open windows and doors to create through drafts or place electric fans at a safe distance in the room.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.