Five Ways To Handle Disrupted Sleep Patterns for Toddlers During The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every area of our lives, and our toddlers’ sleep patterns are no exception. For so many, daily schedules have changed, and the routines that toddlers thrive on are in many cases disrupted. The open-ended day which involves being at home for hours on end really can throw little ones’ sleep schedules out of whack. Like any change, it’s going to take time and patience to craft a new routine, but will be well worth the effort when everyone can get a peaceful night’s sleep. As sleep cycles tend to be shorter and lighter, with more time spent in REM sleep between 4 and 6am, early wake-ups are very common. These tips are your perfect toolkit to help baby stay sleeping through the night.
Be flexible and rework the schedule
We’re living in a worldwide pandemic, so of course, this is new for everyone; change doesn’t happen overnight. The new normal has resulted in a big shuffle of the daily routine, which inevitably affects bedtime routines too. Patience is key, and a gentle push into a new nighttime groove will have the whole family sleeping well in the near future. To make this change, we have to repeat the same habits each night, to ingrain this routine in our toddlers’ thought process. Their day looks different, so their schedule will too. It’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your toddler. Try to find a consistent bedtime that isn’t too late, avoid too much sleep during the day, and try to avoid very early morning wake-ups.
Toddlers tend to rise as early as 6 am, so aiming for a 7 pm bedtime is ideal. Of course, everyone is different so these times may change for you. Try to get in a daytime nap as this is a crucial part of structuring their day. However, do make sure these nap times aren’t too long to avoid disrupting sleep later in the night. Finding this happy medium is crucial. Toddlers aren’t always little angels so some resistance is to be expected. Disrupted sleep patterns during the pandemic may result in tantrums, whining, and crying. However frustrating this may be, try an approach with compassion and empathy. COVID-19 has thrown their worlds into chaos, they are expressing their frustrations and need an outlet.
Create the right environment
With daylight hours increasing and more activity around the house, it’s important to try and create the best possible sleeping environment. Pitch black rooms can be achieved with blackout curtains, giving the impression of a late-night even if the sun is still shining. Including some white noise can settle them into sleep and also block out any other potential noise around the house. A fan or specialty white noise machine can soothe and put toddlers straight into a deep slumber. The ideal sleeping temperature is 68-72 degrees, so try aim to have the room heated or cooled to this. Some exercise or an outing at a similar time each day will help with the excess energy and also instill structure.
Be more vigilant with meals
It’s already a stressful time for everyone. All of the family roles and functions are now forced to co-exist under one roof. You have to be a parent, management personnel, babysitter, housekeeper, teacher, nurse and cook – total madness! Taking the cook hat and making this one a priority is a way to ease the chaos. You can control eating times and you can control what is being served. Aim for healthy meals and the same mealtime every day. Try putting out cut-up veggies and fruits around meals for an easy, no frills way to provide snacks. Limiting sugar intake can reduce any overwhelming energy spurts after eating.
Account for lack of stimulation
A big contributor to this disrupted routine is the lack of stimulation throughout the daytime. Our toddlers are used to a regular action-packed day filled with socialization, exercise, and stimulation. While we can try to replicate this through increasing exercise and playtime throughout the day, it’s likely not going to match a pre-pandemic routine. Take this into account and try your best to encourage more stimulation during the day. To compensate for this lack of invigoration, you may need to add time to the bedtime routine. A longer bath, longer reading time, more time to wind down after before bed can all soothe this pent up energy in your toddler.
Allow for additional comfort
It’s an unsettling time for all, we are living in the unknown. With this in mind let’s make sure we’re being kind to everyone including our toddlers. Toddlers also feed off our energy, whether we realize it or not. Naturally, they pick up on the latent worry and fear that we feel following the latest pandemic news. You know your toddler best so allow for an increase in whatever comforts them. This might just be spending more time in their presence with a hug or kiss, a new comfort blanket you know they’d appreciate, or a few kind words that’ll mean the world to them. Making sure they’re feeling comforted will help with deep sleep and general happiness.
Sleep training toddlers is heavily dependent on routine and consistency. Undoubtedly, all of this was upended by the pandemic – all parts of our lives got thrown in the air. However, with routine, some patience, and hard work you can return your toddler’s sleep pattern back to normal (or some variation of it!). With a solid night’s sleep, everyone will be feeling much brighter and ready for whatever the day brings. Look on the bright side, with all this extra family time we can come out of this pandemic as happier, more connected, and well-rested families.
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