Preserving Sleep When Your Child Is Sick

Whether you’re lucky enough to have always had a good sleeper, or you recently worked hard to get your child to be a good sleeper, every parent worries what will happen when that child gets sick. We all know that things could go horribly wrong during the illness and afterwards, so we tend to have some anxious feelings appear with that first sniffle.

You’re absolutely right to be be worried, because YES illnesses can definitely affect sleep! We know what it’s like when we have a runny nose, are stuffed up, have a sore throat, feel feverish, get the chills, have a headache, or worse yet have a stomach bug. It’s downright unpleasant, and often keeps us up at night or popping cold tablets every 4 hours like clockwork. The same is true for our little ones, though sometimes they’re too young for cold medications so they’re just super miserable (and so are we)!

Parents always want to know what they can do to help their child, and more importantly, what they can do to keep their child sleeping well during and after the sickness has gone. Certainly, you’ll want to take your child in to see the doctor if they’re really sick, have a high fever, or have other concerning symptoms. But if they have the common cold, are “sick” from teething (ie low grade fever, runny nose/congestion), or you’ve been to the doctor and they’ve told you it was just a virus that needed to run its course, then there are a few things that you can do at home.

  1. Propping one end of the crib mattress can help to elevate your child’s head and keep their airways open for better breathing.
  2. Running a humidifier at night can help to open the child’s nasal passages so they can breath easier. Running a hot shower/bath can also work before bed.
  3. Using saline nasal spray (over-the-counter) can help to thin the mucous and clear out their nose. Even if they have a runny nose, you should still use it. Seems counter-intuitive, but it really does work to thin it and get rid of it faster!
  4. Some people enjoy using essential oils and will swear by them (Eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils are great ones)! I don’t recommend diffusing all night in an enclosed bedroom space though. You should turn it off about an hour before bed. Also, be careful in what you use, because not all oils are safe for young children. Do your homework first!
  5. Keep your child hydrated! Your child will lose more water than normal when fighting a fever. It will also help to thin and flush out the extra mucous.
  6. Elderberry can be a great way to give your child’s immune system a boost. You can make your own syrup or buy/make gummies. Double check the product’s age minimum though, because again it might not be a good idea for young children.
  7. Give your child some extra Vitamin C! If they like oranges or orange juice, that can be a great way to not only give them more Vitamin C to help fight off their germs, but you’ll be keeping them hydrated as well.
  8. Make sure your child gets plenty of rest! Seriously, sleep/rest is one of the best things you can do. When your child is resting, it allows the body to work on getting rid of those nasty germs!

Again, for all of the above, you always want to talk to your child’s pediatrician to ensure you’re doing the right things. When it comes to ensuring your child continues to be a good sleeper, the answer is simple… Keep the same expectations and do what you normally do!

I realize that’s not always possible, but it’s where you want to start out. Don’t assume your child needs anything more from you than usual, other than more cold medicine (if they’re over 6yrs old and need it), some pain and fever-reducing medicine, help wiping a runny nose, or help with a stomach bug issue.

Try to treat the symptoms without undoing everything that’s working well for your family. For instance, don’t just bring them to your bed, lay in their bed, or hold them all night if you can help it. If you do that, you’ll possibly looking at new sleep issues once they’re feeling better. Instead, treat the symptoms and then re-tuck them back into their crib or bed. If they need more help than that, they’ll let you know.

If you need to do more, then of course you should do it. If you need to stay in the same room to catch vomit (been there), then you do that! If they need some extra comforting for a few minutes until the pain medications kick in, then do that! Preferably, you would not need to do much other than be in the same room and give a few extra snuggles (while they’re still awake), so things can go back to normal after the illness has passed. But if you need to hold your coughing baby most of the night because it’s the only way they (and you) can sleep, then you do it that night and get back on track the next night.

Parents often “fall of track” and then think that it’s all over. But you can always get back to where you were before the illness! Sure, your kiddo may not be to happy about it, but you should be able to get back there in a couple of days at most. Of course, if things are a total mess afterwards and you can’t figure out how to fix things, you can always reach out to me!

You are welcome to set up a free consult, if you need me. Don’t forget about liking/following my Facebook page, as well as joining my Gentle Parenting Solutions Facebook group! Plenty of parents are in the same boat as you, so come join us!

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