With the global spread of COVID-19 not going away anytime soon, I put together a pandemic sleep survival guide for those who are struggling. With the virus being highly infectious, many countries have gone into lockdown to prevent the virus from spreading. Media outlets are regularly posting updates on the global impact this virus is having on both economies as well the health of individuals as well.
All these things coupled with being forced to stay indoors and having your entire routine completely turned upside down is bound to cause stress and anxiety. In addition, the fear of the “unknown” greatly adds to this anxiety.
Fear and anxiety are two of the most powerful emotions in not only children, but adults as well. These emotions can have a huge effect on your level and quality of sleep. When your sleep quality decreases and your sleeping less, the body cannot function in top form.
A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP IS NOW MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
Low quality sleep and decreased periods of rest will drastically increase the effects of stress and anxiety, according to new research published in Nature Human Behaviour. As a result, concentrating on daily tasks including school and work become increasingly difficult. People tend to be more irritable and get easily agitated. This then snowballs and causes increased issues with your health and even the relationships with the people around you.
If you, like many others, are having issues getting a decent night’s rest, here are a few tips that can help in getting your peaceful sleep back:
- Groundhog’s Day isn’t that bad
Routines give babies, kids and adults a sense of security. Knowing what’s on the schedule gives a road map for the day, and that knowledge makes us confident and puts our minds at ease. Even though we may need to make some serious concessions, there’s a lot to be said for keeping things predictable and consistent wherever possible.
- Let’s just embrace screen time
In my case, and in the case of nearly every other parent I know, we’ve slightly upped screen time by about three thousand percent. None of us are thrilled about it. But ABC Mouse has been a life saver in my house and my little one think’s she is just playing games. Extra screen time for the kids might just be the difference between a peaceful afternoon and a mutual meltdown.
However, there is too much of a good thing. Electronic screens emit a lot of blue light which can interfere with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, so go ahead and let your kids indulge in extra screen time, but turn them off at least two hours before bedtime. (The screens, not your kids.)
- Order Up!
When it comes to mealtimes, again, try to stay as consistent as possible. Few things affect our bodies’ sense of timing like when we eat. Allowing meal and snack times to fluctuate too much can upend your little one’s schedule (and yours.) Sugary snacks will likely leave them with too much energy come bedtime and the occasional upset tummy, so keep an eye on how much junk food they’re getting into. Wink, wink.
- If you build it, they will come
With everyone being housebound, your kids are likely going to have a ton of excess energy. With no playground to let loose on and no friends to chase around, you’re going to need to get creative to help them tire themselves out. Getting outside is a good idea. Sunlight will help maintain the circadian rhythm and a bike ride or even a brisk walk can help reduce feelings of confinement and keep you and your kids from going stir crazy. Building a fort out of furniture and cushions can also be a great project to keep your kids occupied and provide them with some stuff to climb on too. I’ve overseen the “construction” of several of the last few weeks, and I’m quite impressed at the creativity.
- Early to bed, early to rise…
Now, since many of us are no longer under any obligation to get up for work and school, we might get to thinking that this is a good opportunity for everybody to catch up on some sleep by turning off the morning alarms. I’m tempted to do so myself, but sticking to the usual bedtimes and wake up times is really important. Predictability and structure are, again, sources of comfort for our kids, so even though there’s no morning bell, it’s still a good idea to keep things on schedule.
- Deep breath in, deep breath out
For older kids and adults, some deep breathing exercises during their bedtime routine can help to settle them down at the end of the day. I’m not suggesting they start meditation classes or anything, but deep breathing can be a bit of a stress reliever and cue to your mind and body that it is time to sleep.
- Don’t panic
Outside of the sleep realm, there are a couple of other tips I’d like to offer you. Our children are perceptive little creatures, and they most likely know that there’s something serious happening at the moment. They might not bring it up too much, but there’s likely something pinging around in the back of their heads that has them a little bit on edge. This can be amplified if they see that their parents are concerned and on edge as well. So, do try to keep the atmosphere cheery and light. I know it’s not easy given the circumstances, but stressed out kids aren’t going to improve the situation. If they have questions, of course you should be honest and forthcoming, but your attitude towards the subject will work wonders in keeping their minds at ease.
- Focus on the good stuff
Last but not least, try not to watch the news coverage with the kids around. They’re always listening and hearing phrases like, “death toll,” and “no room for bodies” is going to increase their stress levels. It’s important to stay informed, but do so after they’ve gone to bed.
I look forward to getting back to a time when we can discuss less serious things with each other again, and look back at this time as one where we all came together (even while we’re so far apart) and made the best of a really bad situation.
Who knows. We may end up remembering this time with some affinity for the opportunity it’s given us to reconnect and get to know more about our kids.
Sometimes, in situations as stressful and uncertain as the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes necessary to seek the help of a professional.
If you or your kids are suffering in the sleep area and would like to nip the issues in the bud before they escalate, I’m still here for you virtually.
To book a quick and free sleep evaluation to discuss how I am able to help your family, please click below.
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