So many of our collective routines, including sleep, have been disrupted by the pandemic. Worry, stress and social isolation may present as a sleep disturbance. Children and adolescents might have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up in the morning. Children may ask or attempt to sleep in their parents’ bed, wander during the night, or be found asleep in front of the TV. Adolescents may stay up hours later than their “normal” bedtime socializing or playing electronic games. Now, more than ever, it is important to encourage families to maintain sleep routines so everyone gets adequate rest. Sleep boosts immunity, helps the body recover and is key for learning, mood and focus.
During phone calls and telehealth visits with children and their families, ask about sleep. Reinforce how good sleep hygiene can assist in health promotion. Remind caregivers that a sleep hygiene program can be adhered to even during this time of upheaval. Below are tips and resources to help families achieve a consistently good night’s rest.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Children and adolescents often need help falling asleep when experiencing heightened anxiety and worry. Parents can assist by adding relaxation techniques to a regular bedtime routine. While it may seem counterintuitive, taking a warm bath or shower before bed lowers core body temperature which triggers drowsiness. Reading or listening to calming music together or providing a back rub may also assist children in transitioning to sleep. A predictable and soothing routine will ease anxiety and fear during this unprecedented time, if parents stick with it. The National Sleep Foundation provides guidance on establishing routines and other key aspects of sleep during the COVID-19 pandemic. National Public Radio has a 22 minute podcast Don’t Count Sheep: Better Bedtime Rituals that provides tips for creating a bedtime routine.
Limit Screen Time Prior to Bed
E-learning and social media provide great benefits during the day for children and adolescents; however, at night they may have difficulty disconnecting from the screen. Finding a balance between nurturing a sense of connection while ensuring adequate sleep is important. Parents can work to develop a plan for the whole family to assist in creating healthy media use that does not interfere with sleep. The Child Mind Institute has developed tips for parents to assist in setting limits and managing screen time.
llinois DocAssist consultants are available to discuss additional strategies for addressing sleep issues in children, adolescents and perinatal women. Call for a consultation Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. The DocAssist website is also being updated regularly to provide you with information, resources and support during the pandemic.