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Three ways to ensure summer vacation doesn’t negatively impact your child’s sleep

In my clinical practice parents often complain about how difficult it can be to maintain a consistent sleep schedule in the summer. With long days, children will often wake early with the sun, and few children want to go to bed when it is still light out (especially when they could be playing outside!).

It is very easy to get off schedule during the summer without the routine of school and with the added distractions of long days and vacations. If a child does not need to wake for summer camp or other activities, then a later bedtime and wake time is not problematic.  However, if children are going to bed later, and parents have to drag them out of bed in the morning to get them to camp, this means the child is not getting enough sleep. As during the school year, this can interfere with all aspects of a child’s functioning, including growth, development, mood, and performance.

For teens, summer can be a time to catch up on lost sleep during the school year, with many parents complaining about how they “sleep away the day,” not waking until lunchtime or later. While this extra sleep is a good thing, it may also result in a shifted or delayed schedule, with teens going to bed later than usual, and sleeping later than usual.  This can be problematic when school starts and the teen has to once again attempt to go to bed early and rise early.

So what is a parent to do?

  1. Enforce a consistent sleep schedule that allows a child to obtain a sufficient amount of sleep.
    This may mean your child has to go to bed when the sun is still up. One way to help promote sleep is to use blackout shades in your child’s bedroom.
  2. For teens, allowing them to sleep in is okay, but within reason. Try to have your teen up no later than 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.  This will make the transition back to school a lot easier.  One way to get teens up is to get them involved in activities that require them to be present in the morning.
  3. Two to three weeks before school starts, begin working on shifting your child’s or teen’s sleep schedule to help them get ready for school. The easiest way to do this is to have a set bedtime and wake time that allows for enough sleep, and then move both the bedtime and wake time 15 minutes earlier every 2-3 nights until the desired sleep schedule is reach.

While summer is great for getting outside, enjoying the sun, playing, and relaxing, it is important to remember that sleep is an essential part of a child’s health and well-being.  So help your child get the most out of their summer vacation by helping them get enough sleep!


Lisa Meltzer

Lisa Meltzer is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at National Jewish Health and an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College, and her master’s degree and Ph.D. in clinical and health psychology from the University of Florida. Dr. Meltzer completed her clinical internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was awarded a Pickwick Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Sleep by the National Sleep Foundation. After 5 years on faculty at CHOP/University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, she relocated to her hometown of Denver, Colorado and joined the faculty at National Jewish Health. Dr. Meltzer’s research focuses on sleep in children with chronic illnesses and their parents, the impact of deficient sleep on health outcomes in adolescents with asthma, pediatric sleep and primary care, as well as the development and validation of objective and subjective measures of pediatric sleep. In 2014 Dr. Meltzer was selected as the Education Fellow for the National Sleep Foundation, assisting with the development of programs to educate primary care providers about sleep health. She is also the chair of the Trainee Education and Advisory Committee of the Sleep Research Society. In addition to her research and service, Dr. Meltzer is certified in Behavioral Sleep Medicine by the American Board of Sleep Medicine and enjoys working with children and their families in the Pediatric Behavioral Sleep Clinic at National Jewish Health.

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