Are Summer Bedtimes Important?
While last school year might be a distant memory in the middle of summer, the new school year isn’t far away. Soon, your child will be back to a consistent schedule to make way for schoolwork, and bedtimes will be necessary again. It’s likely that the summer led to your student being off-schedule, or free of a standard bedtime altogether. Summer vacation comes with plenty of reasons to stay up later, whether to spot fireflies or stargaze. As school approaches, it may be time to consider, “Should my child have a bedtime, even in the summer?”
The answer is, yes! According to the Sleep Foundation, children tend to sleep and wake up later in the summer. Even with an adjusted sleep schedule, having a consistent bedtime benefits mood, stress, and academic performance. Getting both enough sleep and having good sleep quality improves memory and retention through times of learning loss. Extra sleep can be the difference in your child’s grade performance in the upcoming school year. However, a summer bedtime could have multiple interpretations when it comes to consistency.
A case for a set bedtime all summer long
Summer generally means a time of greater freedom and less structure. The lack of structure during the day may mean heightened importance to a structured nighttime routine. When every day’s activity may be different, having a base to return to at the end of the day may be necessary for your child’s sustained motivation and energy.
Does the exact bedtime need to stay the same as the school year? You may find that your child prefers not to change their general routine when it comes to waking and sleeping hours. If so, embrace what your child is comfortable with, particularly if the continued structure is necessary for their physical and mental health. Even so, with later sunsets and increased summertime excitement, it is likely your child may resent having a bedtime.
However, bedtime, even if it’s flexible in comparison to the school year, is beneficial. Yale Medicine sleep psychologist Lynelle Schneeberg suggests that children shouldn’t sleep in more than 2 hours past their standard school wake-up time—a similar guide for weekends during the school year. This strategy ensures your child doesn’t miss the fun of warm summer nights and instills the increased flexibility summer vacation brings. By offsetting bedtime by a set amount of time, you can be prepared for the transition to the impending school year schedule.
Why is it harder to sleep in the summer?
Beyond general summertime excitement, the season can lead to restlessness. Getting under the covers is one thing but falling asleep is the ultimate goal. Studies show that summer is a common time for sleeplessness. Why is that? The New York Times suggests the main factor is daylight savings time. The extra daylight hours further into the evening lessens melatonin creation—a key hormone for sleep rhythms.
Warmer weather is another culprit to the summer sleep schedule. In general, cooler temperatures are ideal for sleep year-round. The summer season, however, may make room temperature harder to maintain. According to Penn Sleep Center’s Philip Gehrman, the cooler a person’s internal body temperature is, the sleepier they’ll become. Gehrman suggests a hot bath or shower as an addition to the bedtime routine for increased sleep. The fast increase in heat, in turn, leads to a faster descent to cooler body temperatures afterward. In addition, a combination of a fan and air-conditioning is a worthy addition when it’s time for bed.
Beyond keeping a consistent schedule, continuing a similar bedtime routine throughout the school year can go a long way. Maybe that’s reading a bedtime story—a wonderful way to unwind from the day and instill learning into the daily routine. Or maybe it’s as simple as the order of getting ready for bed to create good habits, such as always brushing teeth before getting the pajamas on. Just as increased natural light in the summer affects circadian rhythms, keep artificial light to a minimum as well. Making the bedroom an electronics-free zone prevents distraction and makes sure that blue light doesn’t affect the quality of sleep.
Making the back-to-school transition
Even in the middle of summer, it’s important to consider the upcoming school year. The shift to consistent schedules can sneak up on your students enjoying summer fun. It’s important to make sure that back-to-school is a smooth transition and doesn’t feel abrupt. A big part of that disruption is the schedule change. All summer long, it’s ideal to keep bedtime routines and a set bedtime in place, even if the official “lights out” time shifts later.
To prepare even further, avoiding groggy students, and ensuring alert minds, a gradual shift to an earlier bedtime can make all the difference. Start the process with your child about two weeks before the school year begins, moving up bedtime 10 minutes earlier each night until you’re back on track. This allows your child’s internal clock to adjust to a new schedule without fully disrupting sleep patterns.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean having a routine is less important. Summer bedtimes are the perfect place to start when finding that balance between freedom and structure. Of course, it might also be the perfect time to start thinking about the back-to-school sleep transitioning. Making sure your child gets enough sleep all year round means they’ll always be ready to learn!
Online school supplies students with a more flexible school schedule to accommodate a sleep schedule that’s right for your child. As you make the back-to-school transition, consider enrolling in a Stride K12 school.
Elisabeth is a current student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism with certificates in Entrepreneurial Management and Writing. She hopes to get a job in creative media telling engaging stories in the future. In her free time, you can find Elisabeth collecting used vinyl and baking!