For many reasons COVID-19, and the current lockdown we are all enduring, has held a metaphorical magnifying glass over sleep issues. The struggles feel so much more intense because there is no apparent escape from it. We are together in our small units nonstop.
I am personally very fortunate to know “it takes a village” to raise a child, but what happens when you don’t have your village anymore?!
This is a traumatic time for us all and trauma is likely to be one of the leading causes of sleep problems for both our little ones and us, especially if they were sleeping with little problems before.
Part of our struggle while navigating our way through this COVID fog means that we are naturally more anxious, struggling to sleep or stay asleep, possibly feeling run down and poorly, and then panicking if we have the virus! No matter how hard you try, this is likely to be effecting your behaviour and your ability to cope.
BUT, there are many things you can do to help your little ones through this traumatic time and also help them to sleep, hooray!
1) They are picking up on the general stress, lack of structure, and missing connecting with friends and family;
- Make sure you are looking after yourself as a priority too, remember you “can’t pour from an empty cup”
- Create a new routine and structure. Children of all ages feel more happy and reassured knowing what is coming next in the day, however that may work for you.
- For younger babies, they may need more contact with you, more cuddles and skin to skin time to give them the extra reassurance they need.
- Video call! With as many of your regular faces as possible. Read stories together over Video chat. Have kitchen discos over video chat. Maintaining these connections are vital for everyone.
2. They just aren’t tired enough. And this can be mentally as much as physically. If your little one is used to going to nursery, school, or play groups, for example, then taking all of that away can leave a really big hole in your little ones lives.
- Rotate toys. Don’t have them all out all of the time. I suggest making three piles of toys and rotating them every day, you’ll be surprised how many “new toys you have”
- Get as much exercise as possible. Whether your little one is walking, crawling, sitting or practicing tummy time, make sure they get as much practice in as possible. Climb stairs, have a game of musical statues, or practice sitting in different spaces around your home.
- Get fresh air, if it is safe to do so. Fresh air increases the oxygen levels in our bodies which supports the production of vital hormones including melatonin (the sleepy hormone). Even if your little one is not walking yet, being out it the fresh air will have a hugely positive effect.
- Have fun together, try and have at least one time per day to be really silly and laugh out loud. Laughing helps to decrease stress hormone levels and can help support a healthy immune system!
- Your little one might not need as much sleep as they normally would, and that’s okay! Follow they tired cues. If your little one likes to hide their tired cues try putting them to bed 30 minutes later and see if that helps.
3) They are worried about COVID-19. For older children who can understand what is happening, have overheard our conversations and seen news reports, it can be a really difficult subject to come to terms with;
- Make sure they know it is okay to talk about what is going on. Our little ones often try and hide how they are feeling as they are worried they will upset us.
- Give them space to talk about how they are feeling (if they can). Draw pictures of their new normal. Don’t try to pretend everything is normal, because it’s not, and they need to be able to come to terms with that.
- Use a worry box where they can write down how they are feeling and then “put those feelings away”.
If you are reading this and still feel overwhelmed by everything, particularly your little ones sleep, then please get in touch, and let’s talk about it, together we will get through this.
Stay safe everyone!