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Sickness and sleep - 6 tips to support your child during the sick season!

Sickness and Sleep!

We’re currently right in the middle of our winter season, and there are lots of viruses making the rounds. As I am sure you're aware, sickness can often lead to disruptions with sleep!

Sleep is disrupted for most of us when we’re unwell, this can be due to discomfort, congestion, thirst, nausea or vomiting and many more reasons. As adults, we can support ourselves through this discomfort, but your little one may call out and need you more than usual to help them settle.

During sickness, a lot of the time children may sleep more overall; to decrease energy expenditure for their body to focus on fighting the infection. However, they may wake more frequently during the day and night, due to the previous reasons discussed.

So, how do you manage sleep when your baby or toddler is unwell?

Sickness tends to lead to entering survival mode, and this is perfectly appropriate to help you get through this tough period. But, I have put together a few extra tips below to help you during this tough time.

1. Allow for extra sleep to help them recover

Your child will likely be signalling they need more sleep, especially during the daytime. If they are taking more than 1 nap, you may need to consider waking them from each nap after 2-2.5 hours. To ensure they still have some time awake to consume food/fluids and can sleep at night-time.

2. Provide extra comfort when it is needed

If your child usually settles themselves to sleep, they may be seeking more comfort from you. If they need more help, you may need to assist with stroking their head, rubbing their back, humming to them, or holding until they are asleep.

3. If they're not eating or drinking as well during the day, you may need to offer extra calories during the night

If your baby or toddler has reduced oral intake whilst unwell, try to monitor how many wet nappies they have per day. They may wake for additional feeds overnight if they’re congested or taking in less calories in the daytime. Don’t worry, you can wean these back again when they’re well. If you’re worried about dehydration, please appropriately consult with a medical professional.

4. Try to maintain normality with your nap and bedtime routine

Continue to follow your routine leading up to sleep as much as possible, as your child associates these steps with pending sleep that is needed to help them recover. If they’re overly unsettled or upset, skip a few steps, and get them to sleep sooner.

5. Help your child remain comfortable and support congestion

Try having a warm bath with your baby or toddler before bed or sit in a steamy bathroom with them to help with coughing and congestion. To help with congestion you may also choose to use saline nasal drops and suction out some snot, as this can also help baby feed and sleep better.

6. You may choose to camp out in their bedroom, to keep a closer eye on them

If you’re worried about leaving your child whilst they’re unwell, or they’re seeking more comfort from you. You may choose to camp out by their cot/bed for a few nights to keep a close eye on them and help them settle to sleep. You could place a mattress by their cot and sleep next to them.

Please note, if you’re worried about your child in any way during sickness, please seek support from your GP, paediatrician or attend the emergency department. This blog is to provide support to you when managisickness at home but is not to be used in place of advice from your medical professional.

If you are seeking support to get your child’s sleep back on track once they’re well, please ensure they’re back to 100% by checking in with your doctor. Also, try to give them 3-7 days once they’re back to their baseline to see if they get back to their usual sleep pattern. If you need any help improving sleep post sickness, please reach out.

Remember, this is a tough season, but this too shall pass. However, it doesn’t take away from how difficult this time can be. Where possible, seek support from your community and lean on others to help you through. You’ve got this!

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