Fighting Cold & Flu Season with Sleep

It’s that time of year! Cold and flu season appears to be in full swing – sore throats, stomach bugs and the sniffles seem to increase between September and March for children of all ages, which can make it feel like you are constantly trying to battle one illness after another. So what are some of the things that you can do as a parent to help your child speed up the road to recovery?

Sleep.

It is such a powerful tool with amazing immune boosting benefits. So what are the ways that parents can provide the best quality sleep for their children? As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant, this is one of the most common questions I receive from worried parents looking to provide their sick children with much needed sleep. Here are some solutions to help children feel well again as quickly as possible, with good quality sleep!

  1. Get more sleep. When children are run down and sick, their sleep needs increase. Earlier bedtimes are necessary – even five or six o’clock is not too early, especially if they are running a fever – their body needs it and they will wake-up at their usual morning time or perhaps sleep in to fight off the illness. The body is incredibly smart and signals what it needs to recover.

    Providing older children with a daytime nap is also helpful. As a mom to an active five year old, I understand how there can sometimes be a struggle with encouraging children who no longer nap, to take one. Make sure children understand the importance of sleep and how it helps them recover more quickly. They will be able to participate in fun activities, feel more energetic and get rid of the sick symptoms more quickly if they listen to their body – it is telling them to sleep in order to get better. Explaining it to them in simple terms, and always educating children on why sleep is important is key!

  2. Keep them comfortable. Being sick includes a number of ways that contribute to children feeling uncomfortable – a stuffy nose, bad cough, chest congestion or a stomach ache are just a few. Not to mention how these symptoms only worsen at night, it is important to provide reassurance and support and to make the environment as comfortable as possible.

    If children have a fever, a bath is extremely helpful to bring the temperature down and to help them feel more relaxed for sleep.

    Make sure that babies have comfortable pajamas and a sleep sack that isn’t going to become too warm during the night. For older children in a bed, provide them with blankets that they can easily pull on or off during the night.

    If you do not have one, invest in a humidifier for each child (it is likely that they will be sick at the same time). I recommend a cool mist one, as they are safer. This helps with the flow of air in the room, and helps alleviate a bad cough, sore throat or stuffy nose.

    If you are comfortable with doing so, providing age appropriate medicine is extremely helpful temporarily when children are feeling at their worst. There are some excellent homeopathic options on the market as well. It is always important to consult your pediatrician or family doctor to find out what they recommend.

  3. Keep sleep in a familiar environment. If children normally sleep independently in a crib or bed, this is not the time to have them sleep in a new space, such as the parent’s bed. It is always best to move to the sleep environment where they are going to have the best quality sleep. For example, place a mattress on the floor and be with them so that they can sleep where they will receive the best rest – this will speed up their recovery process and parents are still available should they need them during the night.
  4. Trust your intuition. Sometimes children need a bit of help on the road to getting well. It was not long ago that we had to make a trip to the doctor for my two and a half year old son who had a severe case of croup. We are so fortunate to have availability to an amazing hospital like CHEO or to Telehealth (1-866-797-0000). Never question your intuition. Sickness can sometimes be more serious and if that is the case, a visit to the family doctor or using one of these resources to help get little ones get better more quickly may be necessary.