Prioritize Sleep this Summer

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Although I love the long, slow days of summer, it can be difficult to make sleep a priority. As a matter of fact, the long days result in my kiddos waking earlier, and they don’t always want to go to bed when it is still light out (especially when they can hear neighborhood kids playing outside!)

Prioritize sleep this summer
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

Like many kids with special needs, my oldest daughter attends summer school. For us, it’s early mornings to the bus, and protests about bedtime while it’s still light out. Add that to some long days and vacations, it is very easy to get off schedule.

When a child doesn’t have to wake for summer school or another activity, then a later bedtime and wake-up time are not problematic.  However, when children are going to bed later, and parents have to get them out of bed in the morning for school or camp, this is an indication that (s)he is not getting enough sleep.

lack of sleep impact

Lack of sleep can impact how well a person is able to think, learn, work, and behave. Sleep doesn’t just impact mental health.  It also has an impact on physical health.  Moreover, deficiencies in sleep are linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.  Sleep also plays an important part in fighting off common infections.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that children and teens who don’t get enough sleep may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings or feel sad and depressed. Likewise, for kids with special needs, many who already struggle with impulsiveness among other behavioral challenges, lack of sleep can make these challenges worse.

how much sleep to get

The amount of sleep needed does vary from person to person, but as a general guideline, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree to the following averages:

Nearly 90% of parents of kids with special needs report sleep difficulties. Click To Tweet

Although our pediatrician was quick to share how much sleep my kiddo should get, she didn’t have much to offer about how to get her to sleep (and stay asleep).

Getting good sleep can be much more difficult for kids with special needs. Nearly 90% of parents report sleep difficulties. Add in long summer days (with less structure than the school year), and sleep can be even more difficult to achieve. When one child doesn’t sleep, it impacts the whole family!

As a guest on LakiKid’s Podcast, Ask an Autism Mom, I discuss ways to achieve better sleep – check it out!

Here are some ways to prioritize sleep during the summer

  • Set a consistent sleep schedule that allows your child to get enough sleep, but reflects your summer schedule. This may mean your child will have to hit the hay while the sun is still up. One way to help promote sleep is to use blackout shades in your child’s bedroom. Picture schedules of their bedtime routine can be helpful, too.
  • Or, keep it the same. If transitions are difficult, it might be less stressful to keep the same sleep schedule year round. You know best what will work for your kiddo.
  • Positive Reinforcement. Start a meaningful reward system to support your family’s sleep efforts. This could be time at the pool or a fun activity the family can engage in when goals are met.
  • Sleeping in is OK, within reason. Try to have your child up no later than 10:00 a.m.  This will make the transition back to school a lot easier.  Involving kids in activities that require them to be present in the morning can help this effort.
  • Set a household bedtime for electronics. Desperate to find sleep for our whole family, we tried a multi-pronged approach to achieve better sleep. (If you want to know how, click here!) We saw a significant improvement when we mindfully put our electronics to bed.
  • Get outside. Enjoying the sun and playing outdoors (away from electronics and blue light) will support good sleep. Click here to get 20 electronic-free activity ideas.
  • Start the fall school routine 2 to 3 weeks before summer vacation ends. This will help the transition into early bedtimes and fall routines much easier.

Make the most of your summer vacation by getting enough sleep!

Does your family struggle with sleep? You are not alone. Get help: Download TIL’s Roadmap to Better Sleep

Check out more of TIL’s sleep resources:
Follow our Blog for resources like Foods that Support Sleep
Learn how to Implement an Electronic Bedtime
Join our FB community: TIL Parent Connection
Follow us on Pinterest for more resources to support a Special Needs lifestyle

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  1. Sleep, sleep, SLEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Seems like I haven’t had a great night of sleep in 17 years.

    Thanks for highlighting the importance of this precious resource for kids AND parents!

    Full Spectrum Mama

    • Thanks so much, yes, summer is so short and can make us want to fit everything in!

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