Lockdown impact on kids sleep patterns

COVID-19 is having a huge impact on children and young people’s sleep as time on technology goes into overdrive and bedtimes creep later, according to a new national sleep survey.

Three organisations - The Sleep Charity, The Sleep Council and Sleepstation - joined forces to ask the nation about their children’s sleep during COVID-19.

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And the results from the first 2,700 respondents are an early warning sign about the long-term negative impact on kids’ slumber.

This supports the newly published paper from the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (May 2020) that suggests the potential for sleep problems to emerge or worsen during and following the pandemic is high.

The survey found that as many as 70 per cent of children aged under-16 are going to bed later - but are also waking later (57 per cent) - showing that a significant drift in bedtime schedules has already happened.

This represents a clear risk with an obvious knock-on effect when schools re-open.

Worryingly, children are becoming more heavily reliant on technology with nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of parents reporting that their children are using electronic devices such as TVs, tablets, gaming machines and phones, significantly more during the coronavirus lockdown.

The survey also reveals that a third of children are sleeping longer than normal, indicating that it will be harder to transition back to previous sleep routines once they return to school.

Nearly two in ten are sleeping less which, if this persists as lockdown continues, could impact on physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

Three-quarters of parents also feel that COVID-19 is affecting their ability to maintain routines, enforce boundaries and remain patient.

More than half of these parents report moderate to severe disruption to their ability to parent effectively.

And more than half also reported that they were finding it much harder to stay asleep during lockdown, with the problem affecting them significantly more than those without children.

A staggering 84 per cent of parents are also finding that their sleep interferes with their ability to function the next day.

Vicki Dawson, chief executive of The Sleep Charity, said: “Understandably, lockdown is having an enormous impact on family life and it doesn’t surprise us to hear that parents are struggling to retain routine.

“Children are also having to adapt.

“They have been forced to deal with massive disruption to their normal activities including missing school, splitting from their friends and not being able to go to their normal out of school activities.

“We want to help parents recognise that while it’s tempting to allow later bedtimes and lazier mornings, it can take two or three weeks to change a new habit.

Vicki has some of the top tips on how to help keep a routine in place ...

Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule.

If bedtimes/wake times have drifted, start to move them slowly forward by 10 or 15 minutes every two to three days.

Put a stop to all electronic devices (including parents) an hour before bedtime.

Use family time (with no extracurricular activities) to play board games, colour or complete jigsaws.

It is relaxing for both parents and children.

Try to get out in daylight for at least half an hour every day to help reset children’s body clocks.

Even in lockdown, children are permitted to enjoy one hour of exercise.

Try to keep schoolwork and toys out of the bedroom and certainly don’t send them to the bedroom as a sanction.

Just use bedrooms for sleeping.