Ah, the sleepover — staying up past bedtime, playing midnight pranks, gorging on snacks.
Just don’t count on a good night’s sleep, says Sasha Carr, a licensed psychologist and certified child and family sleep coach.
“It’s a little bit like, good luck,” says Carr, but there are some things parents can do to make sure sleepovers are fun and provide some shut-eye.
Keep it small
“If you’re the host, the ideal situation is a group that’s small enough to control more easily, and enforce bedtime,” says Denise Schipani, author of “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later.” “Above certain numbers, groups of young kids turn into herds with their own mob mentality.”
“Every person that you add into the mix, that’s another potential child that might have an issue that keeps the other children awake,” says Carr.
Both the parents of the guests and the host parents should agree to a bedtime.
“You’re obviously going to have a later bedtime than normal, but it still should be pretty clear that there’s a time for lights out,” says Carr, author of “Putting Bungee to Bed,” a book to help preschoolers learn better sleep habits.
Consider the ideal bedtime for your child’s age group, and consider morning pick-up times. But be flexible. One or two hours less sleep for one night won’t ruin their sleep cycle forever, says Carr.
If your child is hosting, involve them, says Schipani. “Talk to your own child about his or her responsibility as host to help enforce a reasonable bed time.”
“Keep expectations very reasonable for the next day,” says Carr. If possible, don’t plan anything. If your child is the guest, but has something planned the next day, talk to the hosts and your kid about bedtime.
Talk to your child about his or her responsibilities, says Schipani. “Say, ‘if you have an early game the next day, you’re the one who’ll be letting down your team if you’re falling asleep on the field.’ ”
Consider the schedule
Most sleepovers involve kids doing their own thing. The older they get, the easier it is to give more leeway to ensure bedtime goes smoothly. For younger children still in grammar school, consider setting an activity schedule, suggests Schipani. For example, watch a movie, make s’mores, tell ghost stories and then go to bed.
Plan on problems
Sleepovers with younger kids often include at least one child who doesn’t want to stay, says Carr.
If you’re the host, Carr suggests having kids call their parents one hour before the planned bedtime, to make sure they’re set to stay. That way, if they aren’t, you aren’t waking other parents in the middle of the night. If your child is at someone else’s sleepover, have them call or text you to make sure they don’t want to come home.
“That doesn’t guarantee a child won’t decide later that they want to go home, but at least it provides them an opportunity up front,” says Carr.
Gone are the days when parents could easily monitor what kids watched.
“A guest can come over and bring all sorts of media with them,” says Carr. “Sleepovers are a time when kids get exposed to things they wouldn’t have before.” She knows of one child who watched porn on another kid’s phone while at a sleepover.
Clearly communicate your rules on electronic devices. A good rule to ensure social media safety, says Carr, is no electronic devices after bedtime (the host parents must collect all electronic devices).
If you have concerns about you or your child handling a sleepover, Schipani suggests a simple, “not this time, honey, I’m sorry.”
“And stick to that,” she says. “There are circumstances where that’s truly the right thing to do, and that’s up to the parent.”