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Annette Faamausili, November 30 2022

How To Navigate Sleep Disruption When Sickness Strikes

It's never easy to watch your child when they are ill. This is especially true when they are younger, and they don't always understand what's happening and can't communicate how they are feeling.

They simply know something isn’t right and often aren’t aware that you are trying to fix it for them.

While not an illness, teething can also cause your baby to seem unwell. If your baby struggles with teething, it can feel like it happens non-stop. It doesn't, of course, but that doesn't make it any easier.

One of the most noticeable factors of illness or teething is that other routines like sleeping and feeding often go out of the window.

So, what can you do?

Well, I’ve assembled my best advice on how to navigate sleep disruption when sickness strikes. Let’s dive in.

Top Tips For Dealing With Sleep Disruption

If you find your child's sleep is disrupted, here are my top tips for getting through it.

Forget The Routine… For Now

The first thing (and probably the most important thing) to remember when your child is ill is that routines do not matter. Be kind to them and yourself and do what you need to get them through the illness. It will only be for a short period of time.

You may even find that there is little disruption to their sleep. In fact, they might sleep for longer or more deeply because rest is one of the best ways the body heals itself during sickness.

Try Not To Change Too Much

A period of sickness can be a bit of a tricky situation. If your child's sickness is causing them to be off their food, irritable, or in need of medication, then do what it takes to get them through it and provide comfort. But at the same time, you don't want to change routines too much or create too many new sleep associations. 

Start by offering a bit of support and then build up if symptoms get worse or your child is particularly out of sorts. For example, if your child is having trouble settling or you need to monitor them, sleep on a mattress on the floor in their room rather than bringing them into your bed. This keeps them in a familiar setting and doesn't create a difficult habit to break once they're better.

Don't Worry Too Much About Daytime Naps

If your baby needs it, then let them sleep longer during the day while they are sick. Babies and toddlers often nap more during the day to help their body fight illness. You might even find that a child who has dropped naps may pick them back up for a while when they are sick.

If you are worried, have a look at our hugely popular age specific nap guides for additional insight and tips into getting the right amount of day sleep for your child. 

Avoid Too Much Stimulation

In case I haven't mentioned it enough in this article - sleep is one of the best medicines for illness. So, you want to give your child the best chance of sleep. Try not to overstimulate them and where possible stay at home and keep it simple and familiar to help create a calming environment.

Aim To Get Back Into Routine As Soon As Possible

Once your child Is feeling better, try and get back into your regular sleep routine as quickly as possible. The longer you leave it, the more they will get used to the new routine and new habits, and it will be harder to start again.

How do you know when your child is feeling better? A sure sign is if they are getting into mischief again and freely exploring their environment and toys! You may also notice a return of their appetite and that they have become more chatty or interested in things again.

Once you see any of these signs, try and get back to your normal routine as quickly as you can. If your child has been unwell for more than a few days, they may resist sleeping independently again. A few nights of disruption is perfectly normal as you reinstate their routine. 

Get Some Help

Navigating sleep disruptions can be tricky even for parents with well-laid plans. If you'd like some support, I offer one on one consultations to assist families to gently get their children into a good sleep routine through in-home and Zoom consultations.

If you usually have a good sleep routine and something like sickness has knocked it out temporarily, I also offer express phone consultations to point you back in the right direction.

Contact me now for gentle advice that works.

Written by

Annette Faamausili

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