You’re visiting the Birmingham branch of Little Dreams. Click here to view the main site.

Dealing with Illness and sleep.

Thermometer and poorly girl

Share This Post

Dealing with illness in children is no small feat, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sleep routine. As a parent or carer, the challenge lies in tending to their physical and mental well-being and ensuring they develop and maintain independent sleep skills that will encourage growth and healing. Sleep is a crucial part of a child’s recovery process, providing the body with the necessary time to rest and regenerate. However, the disruptions caused by illness can make it difficult to maintain a consistent sleep routine, leading to further complications. In this blog, we will explore practical strategies to help your child sleep better during and after illness.

Navigating Post-Illness Sleep Challenges

I have clients seeking my help after their little one has recovered from an illness. Sometimes, providing advice is enough to get things back on track, but other times, we need to work on rebuilding their child’s sleep skills from the ground up. Illness can significantly disrupt a child’s established sleep patterns, making it challenging for them to return to their previous routine. Parents often find themselves at a loss, unsure of how to re-establish a good bedtime routine. Whether it’s a matter of providing tips for minor adjustments or a comprehensive sleep plan, it’s essential to approach the situation with patience and understanding, recognising that each child’s needs and recovery timeline are unique.

Trust Your Instincts

First and foremost, follow your instincts! If your little one is unwell, always follow your doctor’s advice first. If you haven’t seen a doctor and your child wakes in the night, go straight to them and offer comfort and medicine if required or recommended by your doctor. Your instinct to comfort and care for your child is vital during these times. Listen to their needs, observe their symptoms, and trust your judgment on whether additional medical attention is necessary. Offering immediate comfort can help ease their distress, but it’s also important to avoid creating new sleep dependencies that might be hard to break once they’re well again.

Monitoring and Comforting Without Disruption

If you’re worried about your little one and need to monitor them, it’s better to go into their room rather than bring them into your bed or downstairs. Create a comfy spot in their room for yourself. It only takes a couple of days of a new sleeping arrangement for your child to prefer it. When they are better, you’ll have to start from scratch teaching them to sleep independently if habits change. Staying in their room allows you to monitor their condition closely without drastically altering their sleep environment. This approach minimises disruption and helps maintain their sleep routine, making it easier to transition back to normal once they recover.

Tips and Strategies for Maintaining Sleep During Illness
Establish a Consistent Routine

Illness can be unsettling for everyone, disrupting your sense of routine and security. During sick days, aim to maintain a familiar bedtime routine as much as possible. A routine that is no longer than 30 minutes once upstairs, with everything carried out in the same or familiar order, provides comfort and a sense of normalcy. A consistent bedtime routine helps signal to your child that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep, which is particularly important when they’re feeling unwell and their usual signals might be out of sync. For suggestions, read my blog on The Power of the Bedtime Routine.

Create a Restful Sleep Environment

Ensure their sleep environment is dimly lit for reading and feeding, and as close to pitch dark as possible when they go to sleep. Light plays a big role in creating sleepy hormones and a calming atmosphere. Also, ensure the temperature is ideal, between 16-18 degrees Celsius (refer to Lullaby Trust). Let them wear their favourite pyjamas and read their favourite book. These small comforts can make a significant difference in how quickly and comfortably they fall asleep. For your convenience, make sure there’s a sick bowl within easy reach and water nearby if they are old enough to manage it. A restful sleep environment will contribute to a more peaceful night, especially during periods of illness. Maintaining a quiet, cool, and dark environment can help them fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, promoting better rest and recovery.

Promote Independent Sleep Skills

Building independent sleep skills is a process that takes time and should not be started when your little one is unwell. If they already have independent sleep skills (not needing anything external to fall asleep), try to maintain normality as much as possible. Comfort them until they are soothed, then gradually withdraw, allowing them to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. This approach helps ensure that their sleep habits remain consistent, even during illness. Maintaining these routines reduces the risk of needing to re-train them once they recover. Encouraging independent sleep skills means they learn to fall asleep on their own, which is crucial for their overall sleep health and development.

Balancing Comfort and Sleep Teaching

Depending on how unwell a child is, it is important to strike a balance between comforting them and promoting their sleep skills. While offering reassurance and care, you’re there for them while also allowing them to self-soothe. This balance will help ensure that once they are better, their sleep habits remain consistent. It’s important to be responsive to their needs without compromising the independent sleep skills you’ve worked hard to establish. Recognise when they need extra comfort and when it’s appropriate to encourage self-soothing. Striking this balance requires patience and flexibility, understanding that each situation and child is different.

Dealing with illness in children is indisputably challenging, but by fostering independent sleep skills, you can provide a foundation for healthier sleep habits. Through familiar routines, a restful sleep environment, and encouraging independent sleep, you can navigate the delicate dance of comforting your child while nurturing their ability to sleep independently. With these strategies, you can support your child’s recovery and maintain their healthy sleep habits. Seeing our little ones unwell is so difficult, but with the right strategies, you can support their healing and maintain their healthy sleep habits. Your efforts during these challenging times will pay off, leading to better sleep and overall well-being for your child.

You may also like

Mother feeding her baby

Dream Feeding

For parents of newborns, the quest for longer stretches of sleep can feel like a never-ending journey. Those precious moments when your little one finally

Read More »