The summer is a time for being outside, spending time with the kids, swimming, sunshine and holidays! However, your sleep and that of your children can be affected in several ways.
Here is your guide to sleeping well in the summer.
Children’s sleep in the summer
When children are out of school during the school holidays they often do not have the same regular bedtimes and wake times that they have when they are at school. On the one hand, this flexibility means that they can be a part of spontaneous evening family activities and then they can make up for their lost sleep by having a lie-in the next day. However, this lack of consistent sleep routine can cause major disruption to children’s sleep. Children and adults sleep best when they have a set bedtime and wake time 7 days per week. When you go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, your circadian rhythm is strongest, helping you to feel sleepy at night and awake during the day. If you want your children to be able go to bed later and sleep-in later in the mornings during the summer, make the change consistent. Set their bedtime an hour or two later and their wake time equally an hour or two later every day during the summer.
To help overcome the light evenings, make sure that you have thick curtains or blackout blinds in bedrooms to help block out the late evening and early morning sunshine which can disrupt sleep. You could also consider using an eye mask to block out the light. This is especially effective when camping!
Coping with the summer heat at night
As we fall asleep, our body temperature naturally drops. However, if your bedroom is too hot (such as during a summer heatwave) then your body temperature will struggle to fall, and you will struggle to sleep. There are a number of things you can do to try to help:
1) Keep windows shut during the daytime, so that the very hot outside air does not come into the house. The temptation is to open the windows, but during a heatwave the air outside is likely to be much warmer than the air inside.
2) Keep curtains shut, especially in sun facing rooms. When direct sunlight gets into a bedroom it will heat up the room. Keep curtains shut to minimise the bedroom heating up.
3) Have a good quality mattress that will allow air to circulate and keep you cool. Vispring beds have air vents within the mattresses themselves allowing air to be actively circulated through the mattress as the sleeper moves in their sleep. Also, they use exclusively use natural fibres (such as mohair and Platinum Certified British fleece wool). The Vispring Devonshire and Shetland Vispring mattresses are made with exclusively British fleece wool making them hypo-allergenic, as well as their breathable fibres being ten times better than synthetic materials at absorbing excess moisture.
4) Choose a supportive and breathable pillow made of natural fibres which will be beneficial to keep you cool in the summer. As with pillows and mattresses, natural fibres are also the best choice for bedding. Waterproof mattress and pillow covers should also be removed during a heatwave as they can increase sweating.
5) Have a cool bath before bed. During hot weather, a cooler than usual bath will help to reduce your body temperature before bed making you feel more comfortable as you get into bed.
6) Use a fan in the bedroom. A fan can help circulate air around the room to help keep you cool. A frozen water bottle could also be placed in front of the fan to help blow even cooler air around. Don’t point the fan directly at your face, and make sure that the fan and electric cable are out of reach of any children.
7) Wear less clothes at night. Sleep in as few clothes as possible or use light natural breathable fabrics such as cotton which will help wick away moisture.
8) Use a cool wet flannel on the forehead. You can try placing a cool wet flannel on your forehead for a short while. This is especially helpful for a child or baby is who is very upset by the heat.
9) Keep hydrated. During hot weather it is easy to get dehydrated. Have a glass of cold water in your bedroom to drink during the night.
10) Fill a hot water bottle with crushed ice and cold water. This can be really helpful to place in the bed to help keep the temperature down. Make sure that the hot water bottle has a cover so that the ice cold bottle does not come into direct contact with your skin.
11) As a last resort… invest in air-conditioning. Of course, if you can afford it, getting air conditioning will make your sleep much easier during hot weather!
Don’t worry too much if a “normal” routine isn’t adhered to every day. Even by only using a few of these tips, it may help ease the stress that a change of sleeping pattern can cause over the school summer holidays.
Dr Lindsay Browning is a sleep expert and Chartered Psychologist offering 1-to-1 advice as well as corporate talks and workshops about sleep and wellbeing. www.troublesleeping.co.uk