10 May Sleep Priorities During A Crisis
In this highly unusual and stressful time for us all, parenting challenges can feel heavier and more worrisome. The stress that children are experiencing right now will likely have effects on their behavior, including sleep! This is normal and to be expected, but how should we respond to changes in our baby’s, toddler’s or young child’s sleep during a time of crisis? How do we make wise decisions for our family when we and our children are experiencing unprecedented stress?
- How can you all stay more well rested? Let go of the “shoulds,” and focus on what works in your family to get the best possible sleep. This might often involve providing extra support to your child at bedtime and throughout the night, in an attempt to minimize sleep disruptions. Or it could mean keeping limits around sleep very clear.
- Staying up later or sleeping in? Adjust schedules if needed. Focus on the total amount of sleep, and a generally well-rested child. For babies over the age of 4 months through at least age 3, somewhere between 10.5-12 hours of night sleep is a healthy goal.
- How to respond to new night wakings? Keep in mind that new night time feedings and exposure to light will biologically reinforce wakings, so you might want to minimize/avoid adding these elements. Other ways of soothing your child, like holding, rocking, lying with, etc., will be less reinforcing of new wakings.
- More screen time for your toddler or preschooler? Avoid screen time and other bright lights in the 30-60 minutes before bedtime. This goes for parents as well!
- Are we establishing “bad habits?” Remember that it is never too late to change sleep patterns. The extra supports that work for your family now can be changed in the future if you wish!
Sarah Kerrigan, M.A., Child Development Specialist and Sleep Consultant