How to Improve Baby’s Sleep When They Are Sick?
As the winter season approaches, unfortunately, it’s the time of year when our children are more susceptible to various viral illnesses. Often, when a baby is ill, they sleep more than usual. However, the sleep is interrupted, the naps are short, and the child does not get enough rest.
What can you do to improve your baby’s sleep when they are unwell? This article provides valuable information on this topic.
When a baby is sick, we put the usual sleep-wake schedule aside! Allow your child to sleep during the day and night as much as they want. If they wish, let the daytime naps be longer than usual, even if it means the baby sleeps for most of the day. Rest is a crucial part of fighting off the illness. Just make sure that your baby is well hydrated and receiving enough fluids.
However, there are exceptions when it is a good idea to wake your child from a nap. For instance, when your baby has a long afternoon nap that blends into nighttime sleep. In this case, it may be better to reduce the duration of the last daytime nap to avoid severely disrupting the nighttime sleep.
When a baby is sick, reduce the awake windows between naps. For example, if your child usually spends 3 hours playing between naps, reduce this time to 2:30. Try to put your child to sleep earlier than usual. This way, you give them more chances to sleep during the day, even if the sleep is short and fragmented (which is expected when the baby is ill).
When the Baby has a Blocked Nose
Children, especially those under 1 year of age, find it difficult to sleep when their nose is blocked – their sleep is fragmented, they wake up at short intervals, and find it harder to fall asleep.
- Pharmacies offer various medications in the form of drops and sprays that alleviate nasal congestion.
- Different saline solutions also help parents clean their child’s nose before sleep.
- Inhalations with saline solution reduce nasal secretions, ease the sore throat, and cough in children.
Always follow the advice and recommendations of your pediatrician regarding the therapy to choose!
It’s important to remember not to clean your child’s nose immediately before sleep. Always do it at least 30 minutes earlier (before the time you want to put them to sleep).
Gentle massage in the area of the forehead and cheekbones helps alleviate a runny nose.
Tummy time (for younger babies) also aids in reducing nasal secretions.
Sleep Positions When Dealing with a Stuffy Nose
If your child’s nose is blocked, place a pillow under their mattress – in the area where their head and back fall. The goal is to position their head higher than their feet. This body position alleviates nasal congestion. This advice is suitable for older children. Please contact your paediatrician and discuss if this approach is safe for your child.
Never put a pillow or other free-standing items in a child’s bed if they are under 2 years old! Numerous studies show that the presence of a pillow in the bed (for children under 2 years old) significantly increases the risk of accidents.
Humidifiers are good allies in fighting respiratory viruses. They alleviate stuffy noses, headaches, and chest heaviness.
Remember when using a humidifier:
- Regularly change the water,
- Clean the device according to the manufacturer’s instructions,
- Dry it daily.
This prevents the growth of bacteria and mold.
If you don’t have a humidifier, you might try the following approach… Go into the bathroom, turn on the hot water and fill the room with steam. Then, spend several minutes in there with your child. This helps clear the nasal passages and makes it easier for the baby to breathe.
For many children, a warm bath is part of the bedtime routine. When a baby falls ill, parents often opt to skip this step. Research suggests that this could be a mistake. Why?
- A warm bath eases muscle aches.
- It helps to clear the nose of secretions.
- It relaxes the child and prepares them for sleep, especially when you use baby shower gel with lavender.
Massage your baby’s entire body before sleep. The massage helps to reduce muscle pain, allows the child to relax, and promotes more stable sleep.
If your child wakes up during the night, a gentle, soothing massage may help them fall back asleep.
Ensure Your Child is Hydrated
Ensure your baby is well hydrated, especially in cases of vomiting or diarrhea.
Fluids also aid in relieving a stuffy nose – increased fluid intake reduces body secretions.
If you are still breastfeeding, to increase fluid intake, raise the number of feedings throughout the day. If you are not breastfeeding your baby, increase the amount of fluids you offer them during the day. However, don’t force it!
Choose fluids suitable for their age. Consult your pediatrician.
Allow your child to rest as much as they wish. This will help them recover faster. Put them to bed earlier than usual at night. During the day, ensure the home environment is peaceful and quiet. Avoid activities that could overexcite them.
Take care of the environment where your child sleeps.
- Is there good ventilation? Ensure there’s plenty of clean air in the room.
- Ventilate the space frequently. It’s crucial the air isn’t dry! Use a humidifier if the room’s humidity is below normal.
- Choose suitable temperature – neither too hot nor cold.
High Fever in Babies
When children are sick, they often run a high fever, especially at night. The general recommendation is, even if the baby is in a deep sleep, check their body temperature several times during the night. This doesn’t mean waking them up to take their temperature. Sometimes a stretched hand or a kiss on the forehead will give you an idea if intervention is necessary.
In addition, there are thermometers on the market that allow parents to monitor the baby’s temperature remotely during the night. These devices, the size of a small coin, are attached under the child’s armpit (with hypoallergenic plaster) and send information to mom or dad about whether the baby has a high temperature and what it is.
These devices help parents who are worried about the baby’s temperature at night and wake them often to check. They are also suitable in situations where a parent can’t sleep soundly when the baby is ill and wakes up often, worried whether the child has developed a fever.
1. Altmann, T., 2018. Baby & toddler basics. American Academy of Pediatrics.
2. Brown, A. and Fields, D., 2015. Toddler 411 Clear Answers & Smart Advice for Your Toddler. Windsor Peak Press.
3. Rubin, J., Prina, D., Lataitis, N. and Klein, M.D., J., 2007. Naturally Healthy Kids: Integrating Conventional and Holistic Treatments for Common Illnesses of Children. Partners in Pediatrics.
4. Soothing Your Sick Child, Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD
5. Tips to Comfort Your Sick Baby, By Ellen Greenlaw
6. What to Do When Baby Gets Sick: 7 Solutions, By Nina Garcia
7. How to Help A Sick Baby Sleep Better, By Jenni Fuller MA Ed
8. How to Get Your Baby Back to Sleep after Being Sick, By Kim West
9. 12 tips for helping sick kids sleep, By Kate Chandler
10. Jeffrey R Avner, M.Douglas Baker, Management of fever in infants and children, Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America, 2002, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0733-8627(03)00051-8.