Sleep is proving to be a struggle right now for many children.
The upending of schedules, home learning, and uncertainty that the Coronavirus situation has lent to daily life are all likely contributors to nighttime restlessness.
Adding to this current wave of insomnia are longer daylight hours as summer approaches, and already existing sleep challenges that many children and teenagers experience who have learning and developmental disorders, anxiety, or other conditions such as autism and ADHD.
“Many of us adults are having a hard time relaxing and sleeping with the added stressors we are all facing right now,” says Child Neurology Consultant’s board-certified child neurologist Dr. Lindsay Elton. “It is important to acknowledge that your kiddo is having a hard time and regularly talk with them about their fears and frustrations. Allowing them to get a few things off their chest each day may be a good first step in helping them to relax and hopefully get set up for a better night’s sleep.”
Other tips that Dr. Elton recommends to help with your child’s sleep include:
1. Stick to your regular sleep schedule.
Go about your bedtime routine as you normally would if we were still in school. Bath and stories done at the same time, or following whatever wind-down rituals you usually have. Also, wake-up at the same time each day, as sleeping in too late can have a negative impact on falling asleep later at night.
2. Keep kids active.
Make sure your child is getting enough physical activity during the day to tire them out. Have them run around outside, go for a bike ride, try a virtual dance class — as much as possible use up all that stored up and nervous energy. Family walks or bike rides in the early evening are a great idea also when it’s still light out before bedtime.
3. Limit screen time right before bed.
Kids are plugged in more than usual during the day right now, so they don’t really need any extra screen time at night. Blue light from phones, tablets, and other devices has been shown to decrease melatonin production–which is the hormone that promotes sleep. Read books, play games, do an art project, or some other non-screen entertainment before bed.
4. Be cautious with Coronavirus news on TV.
It is important to talk about what is going on in the world with your kids right now, but some news coverage on TV might be overwhelming and frightening to them–especially if they tune in right before bedtime. Watch out for what they are watching on TV or seeing online. There are many ways to approach this subject in gentler, more kid-friendly terms.
5. Be a good role model.
Children look up to parents above anyone else for clues on how to act. If you are relaxed in the evening and ready to settle down, they will be too. Try putting your pajamas on at the same time they do so they see that everyone in the house is ready to call it a day.
Additional help for healthy sleep habits can be found here.
If your child’s sleep struggle is ongoing, there are medications available to help. Please contact us here for an appointment with one of our pediatric specialists and to learn about our current telehealth services.