For many families, long summer days mean confusing, restless nights. The young ones wonder, “How can it be time to sleep when it’s still so light outside?”, and bedtime becomes more of a struggle than usual. I have 7 solutions for summer sleep struggles, insomnia, and unsatisfied sleep that have helped my family and can help yours too.
My son has always had a later bedtime, usually going to sleep between 9:00-10:00pm and waking between 7:00-8:00am (reasonable, since we homeschool). One would think that the Summer would have little affect on him and other night owls, since it’s dark at their actual bedtime. But it just not true for us and unfortunately bedtime is starting to creep past 10:00pm.
It would be much easier to let go of these rules during the summer, but I think it’s still important to strive for a reasonable bedtime to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. We stick pretty close to all the suggestions I mentioned in Natural Sleep Remedies, Part 1: Finding Your Rhythm , especially:
- Waking with the sun, without an alarm
- Getting plenty of outside time in direct sunlight
- Not having a protein overload at dinner
- Avoiding sugar and any caffeine-containing foods
- Turning off all screens by 7:00pm
- (Trying to) go to sleep before 10:00pm
But the energy of Summer is so Yang, so intense, that it may overpower a person’s ability to settle, especially children who are very Yang and excitable themselves. And when it’s hot and muggy, the environment is not conducive to cuddling up to sleep anyway.
Try these 7 Solutions for Summer Sleep Struggles
1. Adjust Diet for Summer
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we recognize that certain imbalances occur in different seasons. In the Summer, the ruling element of the season is Fire and the Heart is the organ & channel that becomes easily imbalanced, showing up as insomnia, restlessness, hysteria, mania, hot flashes, dry mouth, palpitations, etc.
The best way to get ahead of any imbalance is to eat in harmony with the season. Your family is probably craving more raw, cooling foods (especially juicy fruit) that are out at the Farmer’s Markets at this time. It’s great to indulge in watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, grapes, kiwi, cucumbers, fresh fruit popsicles, dandelion & other seasonal greens, and seafood. But we need to be careful to not overindulge in eating fruit, and balance out the sugar increase (and possible insulin surge) with plenty of fat, which I’ll address in next week’s post.
Most of us do best to reduce or avoid warming, stimulating foods at this time. Onions, garlic, peppers, ginger, fried foods, and chocolate hamper a person’s ability to cool down and rest at night.
2. Hand & Arm Massage to Pacify Heart Channel
Try massaging the inner arm on the pinky finger side against the Heart channel to sedate it, meaning, massage from the pinky up toward the armpit.
If your child become ticklish as you move up toward the arm (thereby getting excited, which we DON’T WANT at bedtime), then just give them a hand massage and stretch the arm instead.
3. Acupressure to Calm the Mind & Spirit
We covered many acupressure points that help induce a sleepy mood in my Stress-Relieving Acupressure for Moms Guide. These are for general relaxation as they help “calm the spirit” as we say in TCM.
You may also want to press along points on the Heart channel, especially Heart 7, which lies on the medial aspect of the inner wrist. It’s said to calm the Shen (mind & spirit), pacify the Heart and clear the channels .
Of course you can also work with a TCM practitioner to address a Heart Qi (energy) imbalance with acupuncture and herbs as well.
4. Spritz or Massage with Peppermint on Hot Nights
When it’s too hot to settle in bed at night, many parents I know like to use peppermint essential oil to cool down. Because heat rises and we see this with energy in TCM too, I like to use mint on the forehead, scalp, neck, chest, and shoulders to cool the upper body and move heat down and out.
5. Warm Epsom Salt Baths or a Foot Soak
Magnesium in Epsom salt is easily absorbed through the skin via baths and has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, helping one shift to the parasympathetic nervous system where we rest and digest. Your kids may be taking many baths & showers if they’re also swimming in the Summer months. So if they are resisting a bath at nighttime, consider a simple Epsom salt foot soak instead.
Warming up the feet will also help to pull down hot energy from the upper body, creating a feeling of being grounded & centered, which helps when going to sleep. Lavender is a wonderful calming essential oil that can be added to the bath.
6. Yoga Nidra for Kids’ Sleep Struggles
Yoga Nidra is a relaxation method for the body and mind that helps one shift consciousness, resulting in a deep restful sleep. Some children may love this. Others may have a hard time laying still for this. You may need to get creative to make it more interesting for your child.
Here is my recording of Yoga Nidra, geared toward adults. If it becomes part of your personal nighttime routine and you find value in it, it will be easier for you to introduce it to your child. You can adjust it by working with fewer body parts or just using touch, instead of speaking, to communicate awareness of your child’s body to them.
7. Journaling to Process Summer Excitement
Some kids have a hard time shifting to bedtime because they don’t want to stop playing or they can’t shut off their minds, especially as they get older (many adults reading this have this issue too!) Even once in bed, they may have a hard time letting go of ruminating thoughts, like revisiting events of the day that caused uncomfortable emotions (like shame and embarrassment).
For whatever reason your child is struggling to sleep in the summer, writing thoughts in a private journal or drawing a quick picture can really help. I’ve been suggesting this to my son a lot lately and it really helps him when he’s afraid to lose a vision of something he started doing right before bed.
Of course, you may want to try a longer bedtime period, relaxing in the bedroom with the curtains tightly shut, lighting low (but enough to read mellow bedtime stories) in addition to all the suggestions above. When my husband and I are diligent about these points, then bedtime is usually quite enjoyable!