We’re all settling in this new, topsy-turvey world. This unease about Covid-19 makes sleep difficult for many of us. The following tips can help you and your child sleep more easily.
1. Establish a schedule for daytime and bedtime.
Because your routine has radically changed, it is helpful to establish a routine for this time at home. You may be tempted to just let everybody sleep in, but it may be helpful to establish a routine around wake-ups and bed times in order for our kids to have a rhythm to their sleep cycle. The following ideas are helpful for kids, but may be helpful for adults as well.
- Use the benefit of light! Get up in the morning, open the blinds, let the sunshine in!
- Start the day with an intentional focus on gratitude. Start a gratitude journal with your kids.
- Get outside often.
- Get off screens from dinner on so your brain isn’t being told to stay awake
2. Watch what you eat.
Avoid caffeine late in the day and minimize sugar intake. This applies to coffee as well as many of the drinks our kids love! And keeping the sugar intake low is helpful, particularly for some.
3. Get plenty of exercise.
For both kids and adults, our usual exercise routines have been disrupted. No more recess, and our gyms are closed. Exercise during the day is part of what helps us be tired enough to sleep at night. “Just do it!”
4. Recognize the adrenaline response.
Although it may be at a low level, many kids and adults have just enough unease that their bodies emit a constant low dose of adrenaline and other biochemistry related to the fight-or-flight response. Originally, this was to help us escape from lions and tigers and bears, but it is not so helpful to have this coursing through our bodies when we’re stuck inside four walls! Talking about our sense of unease or anxiety can be helpful. Practicing mindfulness daily can help lower any unease and help us to refocus our attention.
5. Establish a bedtime ritual.
- Taking a hot bath is very relaxing for many, but short of that, take time to get a warm wash cloth and gently wash faces.
- Scents can help relax. If you use essential oils, try using those that are helpful for sleep in your child’s room. You can also mist the pillow case with lavender. Perhaps try some fragrant hand lotion or something else that’s soothing. You might both take a cup of chamomile tea to bed.
- Make it a nest! What are all their favorite stuffed animals? Maybe you could pull out some they put away when they outgrew them. Is there anything you can pull back from the top shelf of closets?
- Children love being tucked in, and at times like this, even teens are willing to let us closer. Consider figuring out a three-or four-step ritual. If you’re a family of faith, prayers will be part of that. Or listening together to a mindfulness meditation. Kids often love to have us read stories they most loved from an earlier time in life. Even teens! From Mama Llama to Rudyard Kipling to Where the Wild Things Are…. settle in with something that is not screen-based and read to them, or read to each other.
- See if you can each think of one sweet memory that you might not have told the other. Kids often really enjoy parents telling stories of their youth. Kids could tell you nice things that have happened for them at school or other places when they weren’t with you.
- End the day with a gratitude journal.
6. Use your bed only when it’s time for sleep.
Sometimes bed is a really comfy place and we (or our kids) want to spend time in bed or on the bed during the day. that works ok for many of us, but if your child is still having trouble sleeping, ‘you might try only using bed as a place to snuggle down at night and sleep.
Be flexible, though. Children may be asking to sleep with you. Right now, that is OK. These are unusual times at best, unnerving for many. Be flexible on how you help them return to their own beds.
7. Download our free Sleep Workbook.
Parents want their children to feel safe and sleep well, but sometimes they don’t. When they share a fear, we often tell them not to worry or minimize their concerns. Resist the urge to tell your child to stop worrying about something. Instead, make their worry a point of interest for you and gently help them uncover more about their fear. Through the use of animal analogies, our Sleep Workbook give you the opportunity to learn what will help your child feel safe and help him sleep.
Ask the following questions as your child draws pictures. These questions allow you to find out what worries your child without asking directly.
- What could I do that would help right now?
- Tell me more about that.
- Was it that way always or is this new since we’re having to stay home?
Ask these additional questions as you read along or when you’ve finished the book:
- How are animals like people? What do we have in common with animals?
- We want to feel safe
- We don’t sleep well if we don’t feel safe
- What are all the things you can think of that we can do to feel safe when we snuggle down in our beds?
- Stuffed animals
- Calming stories
- A warm bath
- Listening to meditation podcasts
- Listening to soothing music
- If there was one thing you learned (or realized) by doing this book, what is that?
- Is there another picture you would like to draw that the book didn’t ask about?
Although we designed this book for youngers, many teens warm up to these activities. It takes them back to a time that felt safer.