We are only just realising many of the extended implications of the Covid-19 pandemic. Amongst factors affecting Australian families, many parents are reporting changes in the sleep quality and routines of children, toddlers and babies.
Both the changes in routine, altered stress levels and circumstance of family members, and social isolation could potentially be impacting the sleep of children and babies, as well as having an impact on their physical and mental wellbeing, according to Sydney sleep expert Cheryl Fingleson of Cheryl the Sleep Coach.
“Australian based research into how the pandemic has affected children’s sleep, their movement and exercise patters, their sedentary screen time is still in early stages, but I hear daily reports form clients that many aspect of child and baby wellbeing has been compromised” said Cheryl Fingleson.
“Children are more active when they are at school, taking part in sport or playing at lunch, than when they are at home,” she said.
“According to many of the families I consult to, many children have been less active and more sedentary, with less consistent sleep patterns, during this unstructured period.”
“Also, these children have had less access to public parks, playgrounds and sporting fields than they did prior to the pandemic outbreak, because so many of these facilities have been closed in recent months,” she said. “Being primarily indoors, they are also potentially being impacted by lower vitamin D levels which is vital for eye and bone health, sleep rhythms and overall wellbeing.”
It’s not only young children and toddlers that have been impacted though, even babies may be showing significant changes in sleep habits after Covid. Babies are miraculously sensitive to the anxieties of their parents, may be staying indoors more than normal, or being stimulated by siblings who would otherwise be at school.
So what can families do to re-establish better sleeping habits in the home?
- If you child is old enough to understand, make sure you talk to them about Covid-19, what has happened, and why we are transitioning back to ‘normal.’ But don’t overwhelm them with unnecessary details. It’s important to normalise their experience and let them know you are happy to chat to them about this.
- If you are parenting a very young child or baby, try to return to your pre-covid sleep routines and enforce these as much as possible.
- Limit screen time in the evenings and keep phones out of bedrooms. This reduces the risk of increasing stimulation before bedtime, particularly as it relates to information about Coronavirus circulating on the internet and social media.
- Use bedrooms and beds only for sleeping where possible. This will strengthen both the mental association of children and adults between the bedroom being a calming place for sleep.
Cheryl Fingleson advises all her clients to take charge of their children’s wellness and embrace good sleep habits as part of the daylight savings shift. Cheryl Fingleson of The Sleep Coach is available for comment and expert opinion.
Written for Cheryl the Sleep Coach