As I write this blog post we are well into the days of social distancing and it has been a few weeks since we received orders to stay home to minimize the spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time, I have heard from countless families who are suddenly struggling with their little one’s sleep. If you are in a similar situation, know that you are not alone. It is normal that sleep is impacted when life changes occur. Major life changes- such as the loss of a loved one, financial stress, a move or change of schools/ daycare can all impact sleep greatly. Minor life changes- such as having a parent home throughout the day, having someone stay with your family (whether this is for a couple days, weeks or more), change in normal routine, etc. can also significantly impact sleep. So, what can we do about it? How can we sleep better during times of uncertainty and be sure our little ones can do the same?
A consistent routine is incredibly important during times of uncertainty. Don’t stress too much though! I do not mean that every day needs to be scheduled down to the minute. However, it is crucial for our sleep quality that we wake up around the same time each day and that naps and bedtime happen around the same times each day as well. We also want to be sure that meals and snacks happen around the same times each day as these send cues to our internal clocks as to where we are within our daily schedule.
Our daily routine does not have to be scheduled right down to the minute but doing certain activities around the same times each day will help. For example, at our house we wake at the same time each day and have breakfast. Then we try to get outside each morning, come inside for snack then back outside (or in the woodshop) until lunch. After lunch it is quiet time (for our oldest)/ nap time (for our youngest). After nap time we try to do something as a family (go for a walk, play catch, ride bikes, play board games, tidy the toy room, read, etc.) until it is time to prep supper. While we prep meals, the boys play… or at least that is our goal, we all know what happens when we as adults are busy with something!
Our little ones rely on consistency and having a routine in place will help them feel safe and secure. It will also ensure that their sleep quality is the best that it can be at nights.
Natural Light Exposure
For a quality night’s sleep, our bodies need natural light exposure throughout the day. When the weather is nice, get outside as much as possible (even if this means sitting on your balcony, front porch, or by a sunny window). When the weather is not so nice, be sure to build movement into your day and try to avoid plopping down on the couch for the majority of the day. Instead, play near bright windows when it is not possible to be outside. Natural light exposure is especially important at the beginning of the day but is beneficial throughout the day.
We hear about the importance of self-care all the time. The strange times we are living in now are providing an extra challenge to making this a priority. We know that when we take time to care for ourselves (even just a few minutes here and there!), we are better able to take care of our loved ones. I am hearing from many parents that they are ready for a break from their children right now. That is ok! That is normal and to be expected. Please remember you are not alone.
When your little ones have gone to bed for the night or they are napping, take a few minutes to do something for you. I have been exercising and reading a lot more during these unprecedented times and it has done wonders for my mental health, my patience and my happiness (just to name a few)!
If you are working on your little one’s sleep but it is taking time to improve, I have written a blog post about how you can protect your mental health when you are not getting the sleep you need.
This Too, Shall Pass
Know that you are not alone, we are all in this together! Develop a new “normal” that includes a consistent and predictable routine. Your little one will adjust to these changes and settle into their sleep. This too shall pass.