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Family First: Establishing good sleeping habits

The pandemic has put things in flux

HARTFORD, Conn. — We’re seeing a lot of little effects of the pandemic in places you wouldn’t think to check, and according to one local sleep expert, one of those effects is a rise in co-sleeping.

Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have the kids crawl into bed with you in order to help them sleep, but if it’s coming at the cost of your sleep, that’s a different story.

“I think now that school has started, parents are kind of ready to get back into their regular routines, and it’s a great time to do that,” said Dr. Lynelle Schneeberg, the Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.

Dr. Schneeberg said the stress of the pandemic is only part of the reason why more kids are co-sleeping, and doing so at later ages.

“Especially at the beginning, kids were more anxious, they didn’t really know what this virus was, and the schedules were more lax, the school buses were not coming, and so everyone doesn’t have to get out the door like they used to,” Dr. Schneeberg said.

If co-sleeping is really more like no-sleeping for you, Dr. Schneeberg said your first resort should be to re-establish that bedtime routine, and stick to it, but if that doesn’t work, and your little one is little enough, consider a small mattress or sleeping bag on the floor in your bedroom.

“I call it a nest, and you can teach them you can come to this little nest in the night if you’re worried but if you wake me up, you get a walk back to your room,” said Dr. Schneeberg.

That works well for late night wake-ups, but what about getting to sleep in the first place. Dr. Schneeberg said there’s one guiding principle that needs to be followed for all kids.

“Whatever a child needs to fall asleep, they need it to get back to sleep,” she said, “so a lot of parents will think, ‘Oh, I’ll lie down with them at bedtime, and we’ll be good to go,’ but everybody wakes up at night and the child will wake up and realize they’re missing the thing that helped them fall asleep.”

So if your kiddo has trouble getting to sleep, you may have noticed he or she wants to talk about bedtime anxieties it right there and there, perhaps as a stall tactic. Dr. Schneeberg said a good alternative is a worry jar.

“So what we do is we have them have little pieces of paper that they write their worries, any that come up around bedtime, even during the daytime ,” she said, “put them in the jar, and the during the day, you have some really great one-on-one time with your child, and you pull the worries out of the jar and you talk about them.”