Getting Children to Sleep in Stressful Times


Children Sleep | Central Mass MomA lot of parents have reported that their once perfect sleepers starting exhibiting difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep back in the spring. Many felt that as the “chaos” died down and things went back to normal that sleep would get better. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Things are not getting back to normal any time soon. Now, school is starting and it is far from “normal”. A lot of children are still having a difficult time with their sleep and others might develop sleep issues with the changes this coming school year brings – not just for them for their entire families.

So how can we get back on track and get our children to sleep? 

Physical Activity

With restrictions on going places and schooling moved virtually for a lot of families, there has been an increase in sedimentary time. I know for my family, that has meant greater amounts of screen time so Mama can get a little work done. We aren’t having as many play-dates or park visits. But kids and adults still need to get moving. Studies show a correlation between exercise and improved sleep duration and quality. Although most of these studies are done in adults, this is true for kids too.⁣

Mental Stimulation

Exercising your brain is like exercising your body. It makes you feel better, helps keep you healthy, helps develop and strengthen your brain, and when bedtime comes around your brain is ready for the chance to rest and restore. And for your kids – build and grow! ⁣This simply could be reading or learning colors, or even sensory toys or puzzles. 

Schedules and Routines

When the stay at home order was put into place this spring, a lot of families had their schedules and routines thrown upside down. Some families were able to settle into new rhythms that worked for them, others are still struggling to find a balance or to even get back on some sort of track. Kids thrive on routine. So even if remote learning is in your future and even if parents are still staying home, getting a regular schedule back is going to help get sleep back on track.

Schedules should have bedtime and wake up times the same every day.

You should still have a bedtime routine. Make the point to have some wind-down time. For littles this is like a bath, brush teeth, book, PJs, bed. For older kids, this could be bedtime yoga, a little meditation, or breathing exercise before bed.

Morning routines are also INCREDIBLY important here. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, start your day. You could also add in (age-dependent) a morning activity like a walk or yoga. 

Working through Emotions

For some kids the only notable “sign” of stress is sleeplessness. This stress can come from a plethora of things and you may not even know. Your child may not understand the factors contributing to their stress and it could just be them feeding off your stress. They could also be having some fears that they don’t know how or are afraid to articulate. It is so important to TALK. Even for younger toddlers, acknowledge that they have big feelings and help them learn to articulate them. For older kids, discuss what they are feeling and how to work through those feelings. Let them know that their feelings are valid. Having this conversation a little bit before bedtime can help release some of that stress and settle down for the night. 

This doesn’t mean that all sleep issues will just go away. There can be so many factors including sleep needs, wake times, sleep environments, etc. If you need help assessing your child’s sleep disruptions, comment on this post and I’d be happy to chat with you. 


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