Studies show that the sleep habits of our little ones have changed dramatically
The first seven months of 2020 have been dominated by news of the coronavirus as it continues its spread around the world. This has had an unprecedented impact on almost every aspect of our lives, from health and wellbeing to work and socialising.
And one of the areas which has been most affected is sleep. Recent research suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced our sleep quality and caused us to dream more, but it’s not just adults who are suffering.
Because a recent survey by The Sleep Council reveals that children’s sleep patterns have also been greatly affected by the pandemic. From shifting schedules to higher screen time, our little ones are also feeling the effects of the current situation when it comes to bedtime.
We’re going to take a closer look at this research, exploring the ways you can help ensure a good night’s rest for your children during this time.
Technology is up and sleep is down
During their National Sleep Survey, The Sleep Council discovered a range of ways in which the coronavirus pandemic was impacting our sleep health, but it also uncovered the detrimental impact it was having on children’s sleep too.
The study showed that as many as 70% of children under 16 are now going to bed later than they were before the pandemic. What’s more, over half (57%) are also waking up later. This shows a significant drift in bedtime schedules which presents a risky knock-on effect once schools reopen. Children may find it difficult to readjust to an earlier sleep-wake schedule.
The study also found that children are becoming more reliant on technology, even at bedtime. Nearly three quarters (74%) of parents admitted that their children are using electronic devices like tablets, smartphones, TVs and games consoles significantly more during lockdown than they were before. Using technology near bedtime makes it difficult for the brain to wind down effectively, inhibiting the release of vital sleep hormones like melatonin.
In short, this increased screen time could be having a detrimental impact on children’s sleep health.
The survey suggests early warning signs about the long-term implications of COVID-19 on children’s sleep, backed up by a paper published recent in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
The paper suggests that there is potential for sleep problems to emerge or worsen as a result of lockdown. This could also impact children’s daytime behaviours, making hyperactivity, irritability and tearfulness more likely to occur.
These times are unprecedented, and it’s understandable that the situation is having an impact on parents and children alike. According to the study, 76% of parents feel that COVID-19 is affecting their ability to maintain routines, enforce boundaries and remain patient.
How to get your child’s sleep pattern back on track
There are, however, simple steps that can be taken in order to less the damage caused to our children’s sleep health.
A consistent sleep schedule is key, even if it is later than their usual school routine. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps children maintain a sense of order and structure, and you can always gradually shift to an earlier schedule as school approaches.
Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, and make a rule that prevents the use of them for at least an hour before bed. Other extracurricular activities like reading, drawing or jigsaws will give your child a better chance of relaxing effectively.
During the day, aim to get at least half an hour of daylight and outdoor exercise. By sticking to these simple rules, you can reduce the damage to your child’s sleep pattern in these uncertain times.