How The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Creating Sleep Issues For Children



We're well into lockdown 3.0, it's 2am and my 6 year old daughter has appeared in my bedroom doorway, for the third night in a row, not because she wants a drink, is hungry or needs to use the bathroom, she's complaining once again that she can't sleep. I comfort her, take her back to her room, only to have the cycle repeat again at 4am. By 7am, I am exhausted.


Excessive screen time, later bedtimes, loneliness, lack of routine and lack of socialising are all contributing factors to children finding it difficult to drift off.

Sadly many children between the ages of 3-15 are struggling with sleep due to anxiety brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. With a survey of 2,700 people conducted by the sleep charity showing the negative impacts that the pandemic has had on children and their sleep. The Millpond sleep clinic, in London, says there has been a 30% rise in sleep inquiries from parents compared with the same period in 2018-19. A common issue is that children are going to bed later and sleeping in more.


Excessive screen time, later bedtimes, loneliness, lack of routine and lack of socialising are all contributing factors to children finding it difficult to drift off. And now with the prospect of schools not opening until March 8th children have spent months without consistent daily physical activity, running around in the playground, P.E. and other forms of physical hobbies, to being confined indoors with parents who are struggling to man every hour of the day, as well as their own responsibilities.


Dr. Bubrick states, “If we’re showing our kids catastrophic thinking and head-in-your-hands worry, and crying and fear, then they’re going to learn that’s the way to handle the times now.”

The pandemic will also be affecting children of different ages in different ways, with younger children spending more time at home with their parents as a plus, and tweens and teenagers deeply missing the importance of their interaction with their friends.


Children are also picking up on parents anxiety about the pandemic. From the constant noise of the media and overhearing parents' conversations, children are picking up on it all. The advice is to monitor not only your own consumption of the media, but your child's too. Monitor their online presence, reduce time spent on apps like Tik Tok, as they are also a source of ongoing media about the pandemic.


Dealing with our own anxiety may also be one of the best ways to help our children. Dr. Bubrick states, “If we’re showing our kids catastrophic thinking and head-in-your-hands worry, and crying and fear, then they’re going to learn that’s the way to handle the times now.”


It is key to remember that one day the world will be over this pandemic, and whether our children will continue to be affected by this phase in their life is something that we can begin to work on today.

It is therefore important to adapt media infiltration to different age groups. Children under 7 shouldn't be exposed to the news at all. Where older children will be more aware of what's happening and will pick up things from their friends and conversations. With older children it is important to talk with your child about what is happening, whilst also shielding them from the heavier side of the news. Discuss their fears, speculations and dispel any false information they may have. Remembering to switch off as a family or only watching the news when your children are elsewhere or in another room is also effective.


Establishing a routine that involves exercise, regular meals and healthy amounts of sleep is crucial to regulating our moods and our worries. It can be hard to accept that our old routines are no longer possible because of COVID-19 precautions, but looking for ways to be flexible and start a new routine can help you feel less anxious and more productive. Remind yourself that life is still continuing, and ground yourself by doing things like making agendas and setting goals.


Try to ensure you have a bedtime and day time routine for your child. For further information and tips on managing sleep you can visit The Evelina London hospital .


It is key to remember that one day the world will be over this pandemic, and whether our children will continue to be affected by this phase in their life is something that we can begin to work on today. By remembering that their mental health matters deeply and we can do our best to protect and support them, as well as ourselves, during this crisis.



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