Are you worried your child isn’t getting enough sleep?
Are your kids fighting sleep? Has it been almost impossible to get consistency for bedtimes during the pandemic?
“It’s been brutal for parents and children—just brutal,” says Dr. Innessa Donskoy, a pediatric sleep medicine physician at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “I’m a parent and I know. We’re struggling with the same issue at my house.”
But Dr. Donskoy says it is to be expected.
“Stress, worry, a lack of structure and little or no exercise can all be factors in keeping both adults and children awake,” she says. “With no recess, gym classes and little outside activities, many of us may actually need slightly less sleep. We are just not expending the energy we normally do.”
Dr. Donskoy says parents should give themselves grace and be more relaxed about sleep issues.
“Parents are educators, gym teachers, lunch ladies, therapists and even best friends for their kids these days. I recommend they give themselves a break when it comes to bedtime. There will be no long-term harm. These are just weird times.”
Some tips to help parents cope:
- Start your child’s day at the same time every day, seven days a week to give life some structure and re-set sleep rhythms.
- Do some backwards math. Start with your child’s “new” wakeup time, try to recall about how many hours of sleep your child was getting pre-pandemic to feel their best and work backwards to get a ballpark new bedtime to aim for. Anticipate that without as much activity and socialization as before, they may need slightly less sleep now.
- Get your child outside for fresh air, natural light and exercise. Even five minutes will help.
- While the timing of bedtime may now be different, try to keep the steps of it the same. If your child loved that bath time, book time, reflection time during a cuddle, keep those things consistent.
One last tip from Dr. Donskoy: “If you feel guilt over your child’s bedtime because it doesn’t meet societal expectations for a toddler or 8-year-old, remember that it is all individual and very driven by wake time. A consistently later wake time will mean a later bedtime, as well. Comparisons to pre-pandemic schedules or even the sleep/wake times of friends and neighbors sometimes hurt more than help.”
About the Author
Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!