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School's out for the summer! Four ways to help your kids stick to their sleep routine

Summer can be a tricky time for sleep schedules as kids take a break from school and when most other family members keep their regular routines. It's important that everyone in the family get enough sleep, even if schedules and priorities change.

Follow these tips to ensure your kids stick to a healthy sleep routine:

Set a reasonable bedtime and stick with it.

Your kids may not need to be up for school, but they may have daycare, camp and other activities in the mornings. As a compromise, allow them some extra freedom by bumping bedtime back an hour, but make sure they still have enough time to get a full nine hours of sleep.

Enforce a routine.

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of routine in children's lives, so keep the same schedule that you use during the school year. If evenings end with a bath, story and then bed, stick to that! Or if the routine needs to be changed during summer, make those changes as minor as possible and keep them in sync as a new routine. The need to adjust to a new sleep schedule in the fall will make it that much harder for them to wake up for school, so do your kids (and yourself) a favor and keep them in a similar routine.

Make sleep a priority.

While summertime can be a time of joy and exploration as children play, take vacations, and go to camps, sleep needs to be a priority. As the parent, you need to set the standard. If your children are apt to bite off more than they can chew, or get caught up in the excitement of summer freedom, make sure they understand the importance of getting enough sleep. Talk to them about making it a priority. And set an example: Make sleep a priority in your own life as well.

Watch what they eat (and drink).

Summer is a time for cookouts, ice cream and lemonade, but be careful to limit how much sugar and caffeine your kids are consuming, especially in the hours before bed. If your kids like to enjoy an evening snack, avoid foods that are high in protein, such as cheese or peanut butter, as they may be harder to ingest at night. A better option is a snack high in carbohydrates, which may increase the level of sleep-inducing tryptophan in the blood.

Enjoy the summer ahead and have fun with your children's free time. Just be sure everyone gets enough rest — you'll all enjoy the season much more when you are fully rested!

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