COVID-19 and Sleep: Is Your Child Getting Enough Rest?
Sep 24, 2020
Getting a good night’s sleep is so important to our mental and physical health. Like so many things recently, COVID-19 has significantly disrupted the sleep of children and adolescents (as well as caregivers) in part due to changes in school schedules, changes to work schedules, and limited or even canceled social activities and hobbies (like sports, after school clubs, etc.). As such, kids are spending more time in their bedrooms, napping more often, staying up later and sleeping in later. They are less physically active and getting less exposure to bright lights during the day. All of these things can impact sleep. On top of this, teens’ bodies naturally want to fall asleep later and sleep in more, and the changes to school schedules have really helped this pattern take hold.
There is good news though, because there are lots of things that adults and kids can do to get back to a healthy sleep routine.
Try to stick to a schedule during the day including waking up and going to bed around the same time each day (even on weekends).
Create a consistent bedtime routine. Try to do nightly activities in the same order about 20-30 minutes before going to bed. For example:
Take a shower
Use the bathroom
Change into pajamas
Read a book or listen to calming music or a relaxation script
Limit time spent in the bedroom, especially time in bed, during the day. Ideally, kids should be in bed only when they are sleeping and not when they are watching TV or on their phone, doing schoolwork, or eating. This helps to create a strong connection between sleep and bed.
Avoid naps. In a perfect world, there would be no naps starting in early elementary school, but sometimes they happen. If a nap is needed, set a timer to wake them up in 20-30 min.
Get outside and be active. Even if it is just for 5 minutes, spend some time outside. Go for a walk, play basketball or throw a football, jump rope, play tag, dance. Anything that gets your heart beating fast will help with sleep later. Plus, seeing bright lights like sunshine in the morning is important to keep your body’s clock in rhythm.
Avoid screens. Ideally, stop screen use at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If this is not possible, avoid using screens after bedtime.
Use the “Do Not Disturb” setting on phones or have kids leave their phone in another part of the house.
Store screens away from the bed so they cannot be accessed easily.
Have kids turn in their electronics at a set time at night and charge them outside of the bedroom.
Remove TVs or video game systems from bedrooms or take power cords and controllers at bedtime.
Be a good role model. This means that caregivers should be following this advice as well, and even say what they are doing out loud to really drive the point home, “I’d like to watch my show right now, but I know it’s too close to bedtime and I want to make sure I can sleep well tonight.”
Cody Hostutler, PhD, is a licensed pediatric primary care psychologist
at Nationwide Children's Hospital and assistant professor in the
Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University. He obtained his
PhD at Lehigh University.
Tyanna Snider, PsyD
Psychology and Neuropsychology
Tyanna Snider, PsyD, is a psychologist in the Pediatric Psychology Program at Nationwide Children's Hospital and clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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