Sleep despite the winter bugs
In Winter, the likelihood of having a sick child increases and that can bring with it a whole host of sleep issues. Children's Sleep Expert, Natalie Preston, gives us her top tips for getting everybody sleeping through the night (in their own beds!) as quickly as possible.
The onset of the colder weather brings colds and coughs which spread very quickly between children. Dealing with a poorly child is very intense, especially if you’re trying to manage time off work or looking after other children as well. But what often feels like the hardest part is the lack of sleep.
It’s brutal when your child suddenly needs tending to every hour or two throughout the night because they’re feeling really grotty. And to make matters worse, this is now a prime breeding ground for developing sleeping habits that you probably don’t want to continue with once the virus has run its course and everyone’s perfectly healthy again.
Why does this happen?
The problem arises because you’re tired, your child is tired, and so this is where you end up doing whatever is necessary to maximise sleep. Obviously, your child needs you to parent them in a more intense way during this time, and so you should. But the million-dollar question is…
How can you avoid this becoming a permanent arrangement?
1. Don’t jump in at the deep end.
Just because your child has a cold doesn’t mean you automatically have to cuddle them to sleep or bring them into your bed for the night (unless you want to of course). Try and think of a soothing ladder and take one step up the ladder by giving a little more soothing than normal and then see if that’s ok for your child.
This might look like an extra-long cuddle, a bit of a stroke and leaving the door ajar. If this doesn’t work, take another step up the ladder and give a little more soothing, maybe staying and stroking them until they’re very sleepy but not yet asleep. And continue stepping up the ladder little by little until you find a level that is acceptable to them but as low as you can get away with.
2. Try and keep one eye on the long term.
As tempting as it is to just open your bed to maximise sleep, if this isn’t something you want to continue with, try to find another way to get your child back off to sleep. That might mean you get a little less sleep that night. But you’re playing a long game here so if it takes twice as long but you can get them back to sleep in their own bed then you’re winning.
If you feel you need to monitor them throughout the night by co-sleeping then it’s better for you to sleep in with them rather than have them in your bed. It’ll be a lot easier for you to leave their room than it will be to remove them from yours.
3. Revert back as quickly as possible.
A cold is usually only very bad for two to three nights. The snot and mucus, however, can last for several weeks and generally bothers you more than it bothers your child. As soon as their temperature has dropped and they seem well in themselves again, it’s time to head back down that soothing ladder.
If they let you and depending on where your starting point was, you may be able to jump back down in one go. If not, step down one step at a time but don’t hang around for too long. It shouldn’t take more than a few days for a new habit to be formed. Be prepared that they might protest a little. But it won’t last for long if the habit isn’t too ingrained.
As for what you can do to ease their symptoms overnight, it depends a little on the age. For babies, a saline nasal spray and snot sucker (I’m sure there’s a more technical term but you’ll know what I mean if you’re a parent of a baby) are both essentials tools. An older baby won’t allow you to interfere up their nose so a bit of decongestant rub or a plug-in work wonders.
Some people swear by humidifiers in the room. And of course the trusted dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen, the latter being more effective at bringing down the temperature. And don’t forget to wash your hand’s lots to prevent the merry-go-round of germs spreading from one family member to the next. Here’s hoping you avoid the worst of the winter bugs.