When I feel a sickness coming on for my kids it wrenches my heart. It is tough to see your little one struggle with a sickness even if it’s just a common cold. Their personalities are off and their energy levels are lower. But as a mom and a sleep consultant I can tell you that sleep must remain a top priority for children and us as parents. With these tips, your child can sleep well even when they are sick.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
Sick Children Should Still Sleep In Their Own Bed
Quite simply, your child is going to sleep best in their own bed. No exceptions! As parents, we are tempted to bring our kids into our beds when they are sick. While this temporarily might help them go back to sleep or even feel a little better for that moment, children are not going to sleep as well in your bed.
And parents are definitely not going to sleep as well. We know how important sleep is for recovery, so children remaining in their own bed is going to be the most effective way for them to sleep better.
Offer Extra Fluids and Medicine As Needed
If your child has a low fever or a cough that is keeping them awake then it is absolutely okay to respond to them and offer that medicine and fluids (ideally water). You probably will even need to offer some extra comfort as that medicine is settling but then back to Point 1.
Your sick child needs to fall back to sleep on their own and in their own bed. If you can stay strong with Point 1 you will keep their sleep on track even if it means several awakenings and nighttime visits to their room.
Let Them Sleep More
If your child seems tired before bedtime, offer early bedtime. If they are sleeping in, let them sleep late.
If they want to take a nap and haven’t been napping, let them take a nap.
And if they are sleeping longer for a nap, let them sleep!
There are no time limits if your little one is sick and needs extra sleep. The best thing for their recovery is sleep. Once your child is feeling better you can limit the nap if you need to, but for now let them get all the much needed rest they can.
Follow the 3 Night Rule
Follow the 3 night rule. For most children, if you do anything for more than 3 nights you have started a new habit. So my rule of thumb with my own kids and for my clients is try to stick with offering comfort and medicine for ideally 2 (and no more than 3!) nights in a row.
Usually by the 3rd or 4th night that medicine is not needed anymore and natural sleep is more important. So back to the rules and boundaries of your child needing to sleep in their own bed until morning time. This might mean you need to enforce leave and check for a night or two to get them back on track, but the sooner you can get them back to their routines the easier it is to keep them on track.
Download Your Free Sleep Guides
Now all of the above is related to minor sicknesses. If your child has something more serious – influenza, a stomach bug, surgery recovery, etc., and you are worried to let them be alone, then the best thing you can do is set up a pallet for yourself in the middle of their room.
Children sleeping in their own beds is still a must (remember they will always sleep better this way) but you can keep a watchful eye on them and have peace of mind that their sleep habits are on track. Depending on how long the sickness is, you might have to reintroduce some sleep training to get them back on track when they fully recover.
But the good news is that your child will already have the independent sleep skills you have been reinforcing.