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Summer Sleep Routine for Kids: Keeping Sleep on Track

Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Dr. Jing Zhang, Neuroscientist

Jing Zhang is a prominent figure in the realm of sleep research, specializing in the intricate connection between sleep and memory. With an extensive research tenure exceeding 7 years, she delves into the neural underpinnings of these processes. Currently, as a postdoctoral researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School, she unravels the enigma of memory […]

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  • Importance of Sleep: Children’s physical, mental, and emotional health relies on sufficient sleep. Lack of it can lead to emotional regulation issues, attention deficits, and learning impairments.
  • Summer Bedtime Shift: Gradually adjusting bedtime helps kids accommodate summer activities while maintaining consistency in sleep-wake times, as suggested by sleep coaches.
  • Vacation Planning: To mitigate sleep disruptions during vacations, familiarize children with new sleep environments and consider adjusting to new time zones gradually.
  • Back-to-School Transition: Start adjusting sleep schedules weeks before school starts, ensuring a consistent bedtime and exposure to natural light in the morning for a smoother transition.

Summer is a season brimming with excitement and fun for kids. With school out and longer days, children eagerly anticipate activities like running through sprinklers, visiting water parks, and spending time with family. However, the relaxed summer routines often lead to disrupted sleep schedules that can carry over into the new school year. This article will dive into the importance of maintaining a summer sleep routine for kids and provide practical tips for keeping sleep on track.

Understanding the Importance of Sleep for Kids

Before diving into summer sleep routines, it’s essential to understand the significance of sleep for children’s overall well-being and development. Studies indicate 1 Verified Source ScienceDirect One of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources. See the source that sufficient sleep is vital for physical, mental, and emotional health. Lack of sleep can result in difficulties regulating emotions, attention deficits, and impairments in learning.

Sleep is particularly important during adolescence 2 Verified Source ScienceDirect One of the largest hubs for research studies and has published over 12 million different trusted resources. See the source when the brain is still maturing, and not having enough sleep can have negative effects on the control of behavior, emotion, and attention, according to sleep expert Dr. Jing Zhang. The recommended amount of sleep varies with age, as advised by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) is:

  • Infants: 12-16 hours per day
  • Toddlers: 11-14 hours per day
  • Preschoolers: 10-13 hours per day
  • School Age: 9-12 hours per day
  • Teens: 8-10 hours per day
  • Adults: 7+ hours per day

Shifting Bedtime for Summer

During the summer, parents may wish to shift their child’s bedtime to accommodate family events and activities. However, it is crucial to do so gradually and maintain consistency in sleep-wake times. Certified Pediatric Gentle Sleep Coach Debbie Gerken suggests shifting bedtime by 15 minutes every few nights while prioritizing naps to support the transition to a later bedtime. Gerken emphasizes the importance of crafting a bedtime that allows children to get the necessary amount of rest.

Planning for Sleep-Disrupting Vacations

Vacations can disrupt sleep routines, especially when traveling across time zones or experiencing changes in environments and routines. It is essential to prioritize sleep leading up to the vacation to mitigate disruptions. Parents can decide whether to shift to the new time zone or stick to their current one based on the duration and activities planned during the trip. Familiarizing children with the sleep environment and maintaining consistent bedtime routines can help them acclimate more quickly.

Preparing for the Back-to-School Transition

Parents may need to readjust their child’s sleep schedule as the new school year approaches. Starting early and taking it slow is key to a successful transition. Certified Pediatric Gentle Sleep Coach Macall Gordon recommends shifting the summer schedule gradually over two weeks before school starts. Establishing a consistent bedtime and exposing children to natural light in the morning can help re-establish their natural circadian rhythms.

Tips for Managing Summer Sleep for Babies and Young Children

Babies and young children require special attention when it comes to managing their summer sleep. Here are some tips to ensure they get the rest they need:

  • Keep Sleep Environments Dark: Create a dark bedroom environment to promote quality sleep. Consider using blackout curtains to block out the daylight that lasts longer into the evening during the summer months.
  • Stay Hydrated: Hydration is essential for both hot summer days and better sleep. However, limit fluid intake before bedtime to avoid frequent overnight wake-ups for bathroom breaks.
  • Manage Noise: Longer daylight hours may bring more noise from outdoor activities. Use white noise machines or fans to buffer external sounds and create a soothing sleep environment.
  • Avoid Computer Use Before Bedtime: Kids nowadays tend to be glued to their screens. It is important to limit computer use before bedtime, and instead, reading a bedtime story would help with their sleep quality according to sleep expert Dr. Jing Zhang. According to a study, computer use, especially playing video games, dramatically makes sleep worse. In contrast, spending time with family leads to better sleep in kids.

Ensuring Healthy Sleep Habits for Teens during Summer

Teenagers may face unique challenges in maintaining healthy sleep habits during the summer. Here are some tips to help them:

  • Encourage Bedtime Routines: Establish a wind-down routine before bed that includes low lights and calming activities. Reduce screen time at least one hour before bedtime to encourage relaxation.
  • Discourage Excessive Napping: While napping may be tempting on lazy summer days, excessive napping can disrupt nighttime sleep. Encourage teenagers to steer clear of extended naps that might disrupt their ability to fall asleep at bedtime.
  • Stay Active: Participating in physical activities during the day can help out teenagers and improve their sleep. Encourage them to participate in outdoor activities or sports to expend energy.

Sleep Hygiene for the Whole Family

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is essential for the entire family, regardless of age. Here are some tips to encourage healthy sleep routines:

  • Keep the bedroom Cool and Dark: Establish a sleep-conducive atmosphere by maintaining a cool, dark bedroom. Utilize blackout curtains to eliminate light and contemplate lowering the thermostat for a comfortable temperature.
  • Limit Screen Time: Blue light from electronic devices can disrupt sleep. Establish a rule of turning off screens at least one hour before bedtime to let the body wind down naturally.
  • Designate Beds for Sleep: Encourage children to associate their beds with sleep and rest by discouraging other activities such as homework or gaming in bed. This helps create a clear distinction between bedtime and other activities.
  • Maintain Consistent Sleep and Wake Times: Inconsistent sleep and wake times can disrupt sleep patterns. Encourage the whole family to establish consistent sleep and wake times, even during the summer.
  • Promote Physical Activity: Participating in consistent physical activity throughout the day can aid in fostering improved sleep for the entire family. Encourage outdoor play or family activities that keep everyone active.

FAQs about Summer Sleep Routine for Kids

Why is a consistent sleep schedule important for a child’s summer sleep routine?

A consistent sleep schedule is vital for maintaining a child’s summer sleep routine as it helps regulate their circadian rhythms, ensuring they get enough quality sleep. During summer months, with longer daylight hours and varied activities, a regular sleep schedule assists in preventing sleep deprivation and supports their overall well-being.

How much sleep do school-aged children need during the summer break?

The amount of sleep needed varies by age, but generally, school-aged children (6-12 years old) require 9-12 hours of sleep per night for optimal health. During the summer vacation, maintaining this sleep duration supports their physical and mental growth.

What are some tips for establishing a consistent bedtime routine during summer?

To encourage better sleep, start by setting consistent bedtimes and wake times. Establish a calming pre-sleep routine incorporating activities like reading a bedtime story, brushing teeth, and reducing screen time (to limit blue light exposure). Implementing blackout curtains and white noise machines can further enhance sleep quality.

How can parents help their children transition to an earlier bedtime as school starts after the summer break?

Plan ahead for the school schedule by gradually adjusting the child’s bedtime a week or two before school begins. Promote daytime physical activity and minimize consumption of sugary foods near bedtime. Also, make sure the bedroom is cool and dark; consider using blackout shades if needed to help you fall asleep earlier. 

What role do daytime naps play in a child’s summer sleep routine?

Daytime naps can supplement a child’s sleep needs, especially for younger children, but excessive or late napping might interfere with bedtime. Consider shorter naps earlier in the day to avoid disrupting the child’s ability to fall asleep at night, maintaining a balance between daytime rest and nighttime sleep.


Maintaining a summer sleep routine for kids is essential for their overall well-being and helps ensure a smooth transition back to school. By gradually shifting bedtime, planning for sleep-disrupting vacations, and fostering healthy sleep habits, parents can help their children maintain healthy sleep patterns during the summer months. Remember to prioritize sleep and create a sleep-friendly environment for the whole family. With these tips, you can ensure that your child gets the rest they need and starts the new school year refreshed and ready to learn.

Harrison Wall is Sleep Junkie’s business strategist and sleep analyst. He also authors posts on bedding and mattress accessories. Harrison regularly coordinates with new mattress companies and tests their products to determine what really helps you get better rest and have brighter mornings.

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