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Getting kids to sleep during the summer

Sunday - 6/22/2014, 2:29pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- Parents, by and large, try to keep their kids on a regular sleep schedule during the school year. But a sleep routine is also important during summer vacation.

Dr. Neal Maru, a sleep specialist with Integrated Neurology Services in northern Virginia, says school-aged children need to be on a regular schedule throughout the year, and making sure they get enough sleep is paramount.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most elementary school-aged children get at least 10 hours of sleep per night. Toddlers and preschoolers need even more.

Parents should try to put them to sleep the same time every night, although that bedtime can shift back slightly during summer vacation, Maru says: "If you want to allow your kid to sleep in a little bit later and go to bed a little bit later during the summer, I think that is actually fine as long as they are getting enough sleep."

But he warns parents not to let bedtimes get too out of whack. "It might be difficult when the school time rolls back around at the end of summer to get them back into school mode and going to bed earlier and waking up earlier," Maru says.

Blackout drapes or shades can make it easier for kids to get the sleep they need during summer when the days are so long. "Light is a strong factor in all our sleep, whether we are adults, whether we are kids -- it is a huge alerting factor," Maru says.

Another tip to make bed time easier: turn off the smartphones and tablets -- even the TV -- well before the kids go to bed. The National Sleep Foundation says the light from these devices can really mess with sleep.

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