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Summer Nights - how does daylight affect sleep?

I love the warm summer days and long, warm evenings which the summer months give us, but I find the heat at night and the early morning sun plays havoc with my children’s sleep. I’d like to share some tips with you to prevent your little from waking up with the birds!

Firstly, the best environment for us all to sleep in is darkness; it helps to supress the hormones cortisol and adrenalin and encourages melatonin, the sleepy one, to be released. Our Circadian Rhythm (or body clock) is set by daylight, a reason I always tell families I work with to keep the bedroom very dark at night. The best way to do this is to invest in black-out blinds as well as curtains. A top-tip is to also use self-sticking Velcro squares to stick down the sides of the blinds to the window frame. It may sound excessive, but it makes a world of difference to a child’s sleep – when they see daylight in their room, they will, quite reasonably, think that morning is here!

When your child’s set wake time comes around, take your baby or toddler out of the bedroom, expose them to lots of light and make a big deal of it being morning. This will even help with new-borns who many parents report do not know the difference between night and day - they’re right - babies sleep patterns do not fully start to follow light/dark cycles until around 6 weeks of age when their circadian rhythm starts to develop. This will help children’s cycles to know it is morning and time to be awake and lively!

If the dawn chorus from the birds is an issue, then a white noise machine can be a great tool for drowning out their exuberance! If you use one it must be on all night, including naptimes – choose a constant white noise like a hairdryer, rather than undulating waves as they aren’t as beneficial in helping children to sleep.

If it’s the heat which is concerning you as a parent, or is keeping your child awake, there are things that you can do here too: firstly, consider your layers. You can try using 0.5 tog sleeping suit with only a nappy on to give your child some cover (recommended for temperatures over 24 degrees), and you can add a short-sleeved vest or baby grow if it’s cooler (21-23 degrees). A fan can also provide relief from the heat – as well as providing white noise. For really hot nights, perhaps when abroad, you can try putting wet towels on the radiators to cool the room temperature, alongside a fan, or iced buckets of water (only if your child is not in a bed and can’t get out and not too close to an electricity source!)

One in ten parents admits that getting their children to go to sleep is a struggle and this definitely doesn’t become easier in the summer months. If you have a baby, toddler or child who struggles sleeping though, with early wakes or short naps, it really doesn’t have to be that way! By enlisting my help, your sleepless nights can be a thing of the past within 10 days, often much less. What have you got to lose? Don't let it be another good night's sleep!

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