Supporting you and your family during coronavirus
Click here for a link to Haringey's Educational Psychology Service resources, which has some helpful tips for child-friendly ways to explain what coronavirus is and why your child may be experiencing big changes in their daily lives, as well as how to manage anxieties and your family's emotional wellbeing at home during social distancing, to help support healthy sleep.
Managing the clocks going forwards on Sunday 29th March:
If you're keen to preserve your evenings, or you're a working parent and depend on the predictability of your child's daily routine, it's a good idea to actively help them adjust to the clock change, otherwise they may miss out on overnight sleep or you may find that sleep challenges occur when you try to put them to bed too early.
You could start adjusting their body clock a day or two before, or just on the day of the clocks going forward, by around 15 minutes. Over a period of 4 days, the idea is to start each day gradually earlier, or reduce the daytime sleep, so that bedtime can come forwards incrementally. If your child is on an earlier bedtime pre-7pm or you'd like to shift their sleep-to-wake cycle a little later permanently, go with the clock change and only adjust as needed.
If they generally sleep from 7pm – 7am, for example, wake them around 6.45am on the 29th or 30th, or 7.45am on the 31st, or reduce one of their daytime naps by 15 minutes. Adjust all timings for the day and then you can try an earlier bedtime of around 6.45pm on the 29th or 30th, or 7.45pm on the 31st. If your child wakes earlier anyway during this period, or you usually cope with early starts and play catch-up with naps and the day to help them through to bedtime, then just adjust all timings for the day a little earlier accordingly. The key is to shift everything in the daily routine, including feeds, meals, naps and the bedtime sequence, as well as get some early broad spectrum daylight exposure.
If your child is around 6-8 months and in the transition to two naps, try dropping the third nap so you can just bring bedtime forward. Repeat on subsequent days. If your child is around 12 months or over and in the transition to just one nap, you can use the clock change as an opportunity to try dropping the morning nap, so that they go down for one long nap after lunch around 12/12.30pm (which will actually be around 11/11.30am for their body clock).
If you're aiming for a slightly earlier bedtime than normal, start dimming lights and closing blinds/curtains to set the scene, and don't forget to also help expend your child's energy during the day with outside play and one activity that gets their heart rate up. If you're isolating and can't get outside, bouncing (on your knee, in a bouncer etc) and different ways to practise rolling are great for babies not yet on the move or create an indoor obstacle course for your toddler. For pre-schoolers and primary-schoolers, play Simon Says with aerobic actions, have a dance competition or do a family 30 min Youtube PE session.
Is worrying about coronavirus keeping you awake?
If anxiety is affecting your sleep, click here to read some of my tips in the Guardian:
Regulate your breathing – and four other ways to sleep when you're anxious
I recently contributed to an article published in the Guardian:
Shuteye and sleep hygiene: the truth about why you keep waking up at 3am
Click here to find out more about some of the reasons for night waking, what 'normal' sleep looks like and why it might be good to ditch your sleep tracker!
10 top tips for working parents before embarking on a sleep plan ...
1) Keep a detailed diary for 48-72 hours tracking your sleep, feeding/eating and activity to give a realistic overview of the issues and patterns of your child's sleep and behaviour - when you're exhausted, frequent night wakings are hard to keep track of.
2) Rule out any underlying digestive or health issues affecting your child's comfort levels
3) Tackle the quick wins first: optimise naps, adjust sleep environment, review sleep hygiene and the bedtime routine etc.
4) For a more intensive plan, try to clear 2-3 weeks in your diary so that you can keep consistency in your child's familiar home environment
5) Implement change at bedtime on a Friday night or when you have the longest period available with support or off work
6) Review the consistency of your child’s routine if they have different childcarers so that you can keep their body clock well regulated
7) Divide the night or share settling with a partner if you can
8) Think about whether any chores can be outsourced or friends/family can help
9) Changing habits and the way brain processes sleep and associations takes time, so be patient with progress when you’re working gently with your child
10) Get yourself ready for bed and eat dinner early ahead if your child's bedtime if you can so that you can devote the evening to helping them settle and resettle in a new way without getting frustrated
My favourite bedtime stories
Story-time is a really special way to connect with your child before they fall asleep, as well as a calming sleep cue. My children always look forward to cuddling up and sharing a book at the end of their day.
Some babies may be ready for a story as part of their bedtime routine from around 6 months old, but others may get more benefit from around 8 months when they can stay awake a little more easily at the end of the day and are less tempted to chew the book!
Children LOVE repetition and this is also a great learning tool, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are 10 lovely books:
- Guess how much I love you – Sam McBratney
- If your dreams take off and fly – John Butler
- The Very hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle
- Goodnight Moon – Margaret Wise Brown
- The Very Busy Spider – Eric Carle
- On the Night You Were Born – Nancy Tillman
- Dr Seuss’s Sleep Book – Dr Seuss
- Goodnight Digger – Michelle Robinson
- Love You Forever – Robert Munsch
- Make a special, personalised book for your child telling the story of how they fall asleep. Take photos at each stage of the bedtime routine from calming play, through to bath time, story time, tucking in, peacefully sleeping in their cot or bed during the night, waking happy in the sunlight for morning cuddles etc and bind together to make a simple book.
- If your dreams take off and fly – John Butler
Is it possible to only get 4 hours of sleep a night and still work productively?
Novelist Danielle Steel seems to think so.
As a sleep expert, having supported hundreds of sleep deprived clients, the idea that someone can sustain that pattern effectively - work, write, commit things to memory, use their full brain capacity - is very hard to conceive.
Click here to read more in this Guardian article about why it's important to prioritise sleep health and how severe sleep deprivation is 'akin to being drunk'.