Hot, muggy, light: An expert's advice on getting your kids to sleep in the summer

There are a range of factors which get in the way of a healthy sleep routine for children: a packed schedule of activities, harsh lighting, too much screen time, stress and anxiety. 

Add in the muggy summer nights we've had lately, with elevated temperatures across the country, and getting the little ones to drop off can become a minefield. 

New research by Signify lighting has found 83 percent of Kiwi kids suffer from bedtime anxiety and sleeping issues. That's having a knock-on effect on parents, with 38 percent reporting that they've suffered from broken sleeping patterns as a result.

So how can you help your young ones nod off when it's hot and sweaty?

Clinical Psychologist and behaviour expert Jaimie Bloch has given her top tips for helping your child get to sleep at bedtime.

Establish a bedtime routine

For parents with children suffering from sleeping issues, it is very important to establish a regular sleep routine, especially with lighter, sunnier evenings. Bloch says it will allow your child to develop the optimum circadian rhythm, which is the body's natural sleep, wake and rest cycle.

"Children can get anxious when falling asleep becomes difficult, which further impacts sleep. Having a regular routine allows your child the comfort and ease of knowing and learning when it's time to start getting the body and mind into relaxation mode, which reduces bedtime anxiety," says Bloch.

Set the scene

Use gentle lighting in the home. Light filtering into our eyes is what helps set off specific chemicals in our bodies that trigger the sleep/wake cycle, and can be negatively affected by harsh lighting. Gentle lighting is easy on the eyes and a simple change that parents can make in the home to facilitate healthy sleep patterns.

Encourage relaxation before bedtime

It's important for your child to be able to wind down in their bedroom.

"Meditation and calming music can be very helpful for some. Remember, different children find different things relaxing, so it's important you find these things and trial them together with your child," advises Bloch.

"The use of security items, such as a snuggly toy, can be part of your child's sleep routine. This may be a special teddy, blanket or even pillow. Security items help children feel soothed, connected and calm. It will also signal to your child it's time for bed."

Spend time outdoors and exercise

Put that sun to good use during the day - encourage your child to head outside and move their body. "The sun is a natural cue for our brain and body chemicals and spending time outdoors allows our body a natural chemical release, which promotes good sleep," says Bloch.

"The circadian rhythm is individual and different in everyone, but because we are a species that is active in the day and sleep at night, our circadian rhythm is set and triggered by sunrise and sunset. When you look at the sun, for your body, it's like looking at a clock and checking the time - this process is called entrainment, where your body clock synchronises with the local time."