Recovering Good Sleep Habits After Being Sick

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  • March 04, 2014

stranger anxietyWhen you’re little, being sick is hard. And I think, at least as far as routine goes, being sick is probably harder on us adults who have small children. Suddenly, the routine is out the window and we’re just doing whatever works at the moment to make sure that our children stay hydrated, get sleep, and get better. With all the worry that comes with our children getting sick, it’s no wonder that our routines (all of them!) take a backseat.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, this has been an especially hard winter, which means that there are lots of families out there dealing with sick children…and the sleep disruptions that can come from stuffy noses and fevers. If you’ve had a sick child, then you know that it means night wakings, short or nonexistent naps, and (quite often) a very cranky kid. But what happens to your sleep coaching?

 

A Note From The Sleep Lady: If your child has a high fever, vomiting, or diarehha, please do whatever you need to do to make sure that he’s cared for and comfortable. You can always focus on good sleep habits later. I would much prefer that your child gets well before you begin to sleep coach.

 

It’s Okay to “Pause”

 

If you’ve just started sleep coaching, then it’s perfectly okay to take a break and “pause” wherever you are in the process. Don’t abandon your sleep coaching, simply maintain your chair or hallway position until your child is feeling better.

 

Be Prepared to Backslide

 

If you’ve completed sleep coaching with your child (especially if the completion is recent), be prepared that your perfect sleeper may need some help getting back on track after being sick.

 

Respond Quickly

 

Know that your child genuinely does not feel well. And that’s okay. Make sure that you respond to her cries immediately at night so that you can make sure that her needs are met and she knows that you’re taking care of things. If you feel helpless being sick, imagine how your little one feels! You’ll get your routine back after your child recovers. It’s more important to respond to cries during this time, as your child does genuinely need your help.

You want to be careful that you don’t overdo your help, however. If your child has recently moved into her own bed, you can absolutely sit by her bed and comfort her, rather than bring her into your bed at the first runny nose.

 

Provide Support

 

Remember, little noses mean that there is less room for air to move during a bout with an illness. When your child’s sinus cavities are enflamed, breathing can be a challenge. Talk to your pediatrician about ways that you can help your child be more comfortable during sleep. Some common recommendations are to utilize a humidifier, prop the mattress (ask your doctor for tips), or adjust the thermostat.

Once your child is feeling better, meaning that her symptoms have dissipated or disappeared (or at least are significantly improving), you can get her sleep coaching back on track.

 

Expect Night Wakings

 

I’m sure that you noticed your child was up and down during the night with their illness. Know that this pattern may continue for a few days as she recovers, but know that you need to gently guide her back to bed after she’s gotten what she needs.

 

From Good Night, Sleep Tight: “Don’t assume over-the-counter cold, allergy, or pain relief medications will help your child sleep (and don’t give them without checking with your pediatrician, as many are not recommended for children under age 6). These medications do make some children sleepy, but they stimulate others, and they can get so wired that they stay awake for hours.”

 

Return to your chair position and guide your child back to sleep just as you would a normal night waking once the worst of the illness is over.

 

Move Ahead

 

If you stopped The Shuffle, or have a child who has established good sleep habits, be prepared to step back a chair position or two. What this means is that if your child was sleeping well, they may need the reassurance of your presence, even if you’re sitting in their room by the door, for a few nights until they get their sleep completely back on track.

If you were mid-Shuffle and had to pause, it’s okay to go back a few nights and repeat the same chair positions as you help your child remember their good sleep habits. I would rather you move closer to their bed then completely regress during the middle of the Shuffle.

 

Keep the Humidifier

 

humidifierEven if your child is feeling better, their nasal passages may still be enflamed, causing him breathing issues. If you can, keep a humidifier in their room at night, at least for a few nights to help them continue to improve their breathing. Humidifiers increase the amount of water in the air, and can be especially helpful during an illness, or if the temperatures outside are causing extremely dry air.

Remember, being sick takes a toll on everyone, especially your child. Know that going back to your routine is not going to happen overnight, and that you need to remember to take it slowly. You will get there, but patience goes a long way. Remember, sleep coaching is about gentle, gradual change, and your child has just recovered from being sick, so understand that she may need a few extra nights to be your stellar sleeper again.

 

Be sure to head over to Facebook this week and enter the Crane Humidifer Giveaway! Giveaway ends March 10, 2014.

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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