Life certainly looks different right now. We are fully immersed and weeks into homeschooling and (attempting) working from home. As we follow the New York state law that states that residents must, “rest in place”, we can feel the stress, challenges, and changes in our daily routines. Even bedtimes (normally early in my home, because that is what happens when your mom is a sleep consultant!) have crept a bit later for my 8 and 10 year old boys. It is a scary and stressful time, but there are things we can do to maintain some sense of normalcy. During this time where we have little control, it is more important than ever to maintain sleep routines!
While my graduate degree in Elementary education and my 15 years of teaching did not prepare me for homeschooling my own two children, I did learn was that routine, structure, and consistency are some of the most important parts of working with children. Guess what? These concepts are just as important in parenting and with sleep!
Children thrive with structure. This is why preschool classrooms have colorful, picture-filled schedules and charts all around the classroom. When children know what to expect, they are more likely to follow directions and are much more likely to feel safe and comfortable in their environment. Our children look to their parents to establish routines at home. This is the case, no matter how old your child is, even if it might not seem true! This applies to naptime and bedtime routines.
Even if our days are very different now, one thing we can control (and we are all looking for something we can control!) is our naptime and bedtime routines. If your child usually begins the bedtime routine at 6:30, goes to bed at 7pm, keep this up. If naptime was at 1pm before the pandemic, naptime should continue to be at 1pm during the pandemic.
Late bedtimes and off-schedule naps will lead to an overtired child. Overtired children have a much harder time falling asleep, because when your body is overtired your melatonin levels (your sleep hormones) drop and your cortisol levels (your stress hormones) rise. They also may wake throughout the night and start waking early. These are not patterning what we want right now.
So, my advice is to focus on the importance of sleep. Keep bedtimes the same, keep naptimes the same, maybe read an extra book and snuggle a few minutes longer before bed. Experts have always said that it is important to wake at the same time on the weekends as weekdays. It helps to keep your circadian rhythm (your body’s internal clock that controls your sleep/wake cycles, amongst other things) in check. Now, more than ever, I can tell you that you should maintain a sleep schedule that you on any other weekday or weekend (think: life before corona!).
Written in part by Macaroni Kid follower and Certified Child Sleep Consultant, Johanna Snyder of Sleep Soundly Consulting. Reach her at
Johanna@sleepsoundlyconsulting.com or (917) 558-3488 for a consultation.