Expert Opinion

Seasonal impacts to sleep

  1. What impacts do the seasons play on our children’s sleep cycles/habits, if any?

As an experienced sleep consultant, I have seen that the change in seasons and the resulting change in weather can impact our baby’s sleep without us realising.

We are all educated on SIDS and know not to allow our babies to overheat. When summer comes along, parents ensure their little ones stay cool, but what a lot of parents may do unknowingly, is allow their children to be slightly colder than comfortable, as they remove layers from their little one and turn up the air-conditioning, creating a colder than normal sleep environment.

Being too hot or cold can certainly impact our baby’s sleep, causing them to wake up because they cannot regulate their body temperature.

Being cold at night can also lead to catnaps, where our children begin to wake earlier in the morning, and then begin to wake frequently at other times of the night.

Being too hot can of course also impact your baby’s sleep, leading to a restless night, but this isn’t something I see as frequently.

  1. Which season I am likely to see the most change in routine/habit when it comes to my child’s sleep?

Often summer is considered the season that creates the most difficult sleep environment to manage due to the heat and daylight savings, but thankfully if you have a predictable routine in place, one that is familiar to your baby, then there can be minimal interruption to their sleep.

  1. What changes can I expect to see in my child’s sleep as we come into summer?

As summer hits, so does daylight savings – the double whammy that leads to being lighter until later in the day, more activity outside, plus the lure of staying up later to make the most of the amazing summer nights.

While this is all well and good, it can impact our little one’s sleep. Staying up later can render them overtired leading into bedtime, with that, they may rise earlier to start their day due to the natural release of cortisol in the early hours of the morning.

It’s certainly okay to work with a later bedtime, but my recommendation would be to ensure their day starts later and naps accommodate the latter bedtime as well. This can be tricky as your baby doesn’t know what’s expected of them, so you may find that a later bedtime isn’t worth it if they aren’t coping.

The key to healthy sleep habits in any season is about having an ideal sleep environment set up, creating an age-appropriate routine that sees your baby get adequate day sleep and putting into place a predictable pattern of events leading into bedtime so little ones know it’s time for sleep.

  1. Are there any behaviours I can expect to see that are a result of lack of sleep during summer?

There’s no denying that lack of sleep, even as an adult, can affect our mood and behaviour. As an adult, we can communicate our struggles, however, babies cannot.

If your baby is struggling with sleep, you may find they are more emotional, in toddlers this may come across through temper tantrums. You might also find them clumsier, struggling with concentration, and less appetite.

One behaviour I commonly see go overlooked in babies and toddlers is hyperactivity. This is when our children don’t appear to be tired when in fact, they are likely well past it and should have been asleep well before we spot this behaviour.

  1. What are some changes I can make to help my child sleep well in summer?

You can ensure the sleep environment is set up optimally for sleep, this might include black-out blinds on the windows during daylight savings.

I’d also recommend the use of white noise. So much of the world wakes up early in the summer – the birds, traffic etc. and babies can be sensitive to the sounds, so some low rumbling white noise can buffer those sounds out.

Monitor your little one’s routine – are they going to bed overtired due to staying up later than usual – implement an early bedtime if need be. The key is having a consistent series of events that you do each night leading into bedtime.

I always recommend a tog rated sleeping bag too, as you need to dress your baby for the coldest time of the morning, which is between 3 and 6am, however at bedtime it is often hot – briefly cool the room with the aircon or run a fan to circulate the air around the room. The tog-rated bag will mean come early morning, once the cooling system has been turned off and the temperature has dropped, the baby is still warm and not waking as a result.

About the author

Lisa is the founder of Cherish Your Sleep, Co-Regional Director (Australia/Pacific) of The Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, an experienced certified baby/child sleep consultant and a mother to 3 young children.
She has always loved children and has worked in the industry for over 20 years as a qualified child care worker, working primarily with children aged 0 – 3yrs.
A successful outcome is not only good for the parents and children, but also giver Lisa a sense of satisfaction and happiness – there’s nothing better than hearing from a parent who finally got their first full night sleep since having a child.
Becoming a mum and meeting and seeing other mums struggle with their babies and children’s sleep made Lisa really want to reach out and help. She doesn’t see that there is a one size fits all to helping families – sleep is almost like a Puzzle – you need all the pieces in place to achieve the full picture and those pieces are what she shares with families.
Lisa uses a holistic approach to sleep, focusing on emotional wellbeing of families and ensuring the parent child connection in not only maintained, but enhanced. She knows how easy it is to become overwhelmed and frustrated, so it’s her passion to help find solutions that will work for you, your baby and the rest of your family.
Photo by Ron Lach