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Summer is Not the Time to Slack on Sleep
Every year, as warmer weather comes around, the days get longer,
the school year draws to a close and kids, teens and parents everywhere are
more and more eager and excited for a fun summer to finally arrive.
One factor that often gets glossed over, however, is sleep. As people are more relaxed and there’s less pressure to get to bed on time, everyone sort of pushes back their bedtime a little bit, and young people are just as guilty of this as adults. In fact, according to the 2016 Canadian Review, 58% of millennials sleep less during the Spring and Summer than during the school year, especially when considering that they’re often doing activities other than studying, such as attending camps or seasonal activities.
This idea is far from unheard of, as KJ Dell’Antonia writes in the New York Times that it’s especially difficult for children and teens to get a good night’s sleep in the summer, and that not doing so can potentially result in weight gain, lower happiness and a shorter attention span.
Less sleep can especially be a problem for millennials who attend summer camp, which thus does not provide too much of a change of routine to from the school year. Parents and kids are still often tasked with waking up early in the morning, eating breakfast, perhaps preparing a lunch, and leaving early in order for everyone to get to work or day camp on time. Yet, seeing as many millennials actually sleep less during the summer, it means that they are going to bed a lot later than in the school year.
So what factors account for this later bedtime, and what can be done about it?
Dr. Laura Creti, sleep psychologist and researcher at the Jewish General Hospital, chalks all of this up to a later sunset. “Often since the light is there longer, little kids, for instance, preschool kids, don’t understand that it’s bed time even though the sun is still out,” Creti points out. She adds that even parents sometimes forget what time it is, and that a little flexibility is always good, but needs for a good night’s sleep don’t change just because it’s lighter out.
Indeed, children do still need a good amount of sleep, even during the summer. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 10-13 hours of sleep for children aged three to five, 9-11 hours of sleep for children aged 6-13, and 8-10 hours of sleep for teens aged 14-17. As Creti mentions, it’s better for children to know what time to anticipate bedtime, and that this bedtime does not vary much from day to day.
Creti says that the best solution for parents to enforce a strict bedtime is to never sway from their usual bedtime routine. “It’s still important to bring them to their room, and turn off the lights,” she says. “Make sure that the window coverings are dark and opaque as not to let in light, and that there’s a bedtime routine in the dark so it doesn’t matter too much if there’s some sunlight outside.”
Creti’s suggestions are more or less echoed by several sleep reports. Alabama’s Medical West Hospital and the British-Columbia’s Valley Sleep Centre both outline tips for parents to ensure their children get an appropriate amount of sleep while attending summer camp. Their main pieces of advice for parents are:
- to set a bedtime that fits with everyone’s schedule and to follow this routine as best possible throughout the summer;
- to allow for free time that otherwise wouldn’t be allowed during the school year;
- to not have children sleep in past 10 am, so that their waking hours are more concentrated during the day than at night;
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