Summer is coming to a close, boo! It is my favorite season: sunshine, warm weather, flowers, the beach….I could go on and on and it saddens me that it is almost over. But Fall just may be reason for your little one to celebrate! Labor Day not only signifies the unofficial end to summer, but also a return to a more scheduled and reliable life style. As babies, toddlers, and young kids thrive in this type of environment, Fall just may be your child’s new favorite season. Here are 5 reasons that Fall presents a great opportunity to refocus on your child’s sleep:
1. A More Structured Day
For me summer presents more of a fly by the seat of your pants mentality. Beach, why not? Park, of course! Picnic lunch, what could be more lovely? Yet despite my efforts at sticking to a strict schedule, I am inevitably a few minutes late for nap or bedtime. Here’s how it often goes – “No matter what, we are leaving location X by 12pm, so the baby can be in her crib by 12:30”. Yet 12pm arrives and there is just one more run through the water or slide down the slide and somehow 12:30pm becomes 1pm and I am cursing myself for another nap that started a bit too late. Even for a young child who is not yet in school, Fall often presents a more structured and consistent day and, again, young children benefit greatly from being on a schedule. This is because it helps them understand what comes next. If every day your child eats lunch at 12pm and then goes down for their nap at 12:30, lunch serves as a cue that naptime is approaching. But if one day its lunch, then play, then car ride, then nap and the next day its nap, then lunch, then errands – nap time is likely more difficult because their little body doesn’t know what to expect next. So take Fall as an opportunity to get your little one on the schedule they have been longing for.
2. Less Temptation For Naps on the Go
Do you try to eek out every last bit of fun at a location or feel bad cutting big brother or sister off from their good time? If so, your baby may be taking a large percentage of naps on the go. Some babies are able to take ok naps on the go while others are too distracted to get in any quality shut eye. Even if your baby is able to fall asleep anywhere the quality of sleep they are getting is actually sub par. Sleep on the go is not as restorative as sleep in a stationary bed. This is because sleep in motion (that you get in a stroller or car) does not allow the body to enter a deep, restorative sleep. Dr. Marc Weissbluth likens motion-induced sleep to the type of sleep an adult might get while flying in an airplane. So with less going on, take this opportunity to commit to allowing your child to nap in their crib as often as possible.
3. Cooler Weather
We all sleep better in cooler air. The ideal temp for your bedroom is between 65-70 degrees. I shoot for 68. Thankfully air conditioning allows you to keep bedrooms at a good sleeping temperature during warmer months, but nothing is quite as good as the real thing! Think about that first night that you get to sleep with your windows open snuggled beneath a quilt. Somehow you just sleep a little better! For these nights make sure you dress your little one in the appropriate layers. And remember no blankets in your baby’s crib! A wearable blanket will ensure your little one stays warm without kicking off his blankets and while staying safe.
4. Earlier Sunsets
While babies and toddlers do not mind the sun being high in the sky at bedtime, many parents have a really hard time putting their baby to bed when it is still bright and sunny outside. I recommend black out curtains to ensure your child will easily fall asleep at the their ideal bedtime despite the sun shining. Even with a pitch-black room, I know those moms and dads who just can not do it. I think it’s a psychological thing. So now that fall is approaching and the sun will be going down sooner – take this opportunity to make sure you little one is getting a bedtime early enough for his age. How do you know if your bedtime is early enough? Your child should be fast asleep before he has the opportunity to become overtired.
5. Later Starts
Shorter days are not only beneficial to bedtime, but also wake-up times. Not only is it getting darker earlier in the evening it also stays dark a bit later into the morning. This is welcome news for parents as many kids do in fact wake with the sun. If you have done everything to ensure that your child’s early bird tendencies are not from poor sleep hygiene (a nap schedule which is out of sync with their circadian rhythms, a bedtime which is too late, not enough consolidated sleep, a room without black out curtains) then they may just be one of those children with the soul of a rooster. As the sun starts “sleeping in”, you may find that your child does too!
The Tip Take-Away:
Recently there have been a slew of studies showing that children who get more sleep are able to do better in school. Even if your child is not yet school aged, allow the start of the new season, to mean the start of getting back to a healthy sleep routine.
Amy Lage is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Family Sleep Institute certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant. She is founder of Well Rested Baby. She offers a host of services including in person, phone, email and Skype/FaceTime consultations that can be tailored to meet any family’s needs and schedule. Please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation. Be sure to follow WRB on Facebook and Twitter too for more great sleep tips.