Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, it's no surprise that many children are experiencing some form of sleep regression. Although it can be frustrating — and often straight-up exhausting — for parents, it can be remedied with a bit of persistence. Thankfully, Lauren Wolf, a certified infant and child sleep consultant with Lolo Lullaby, gave us some tips to help our little ones get the sleep they need.
"Whenever parents come to me with questions on sleep regression, I always ask about the child's bedtime," Lauren told POPSUGAR. "If the parent tells me that their 2-year-old's bedtime is at 8:30 p.m., I let them know right away that that's too late for a child that age."
For children who are showing signs of sleep regression, Lauren suggests moving their little one's bedtime up 30 minutes. "A lot of parents have been saying, 'Oh wow, just moving my child's bedtime up has significantly improved things.' Always start by making small adjustments," she said. "It's easier on your baby to move things gradually."
What If My Child Is Having Difficulty Napping?
For many parents who are trying to work from home right now, naptime is essential — but often challenging. "I always tell parents that if we don't offer the nap, kids can't take them," she explained. "A lot of parents will stop putting their children in the crib for naptime if they're not sleeping after a few days, because why bother? But that is really the wrong thing to do. Usually these nap strikes are temporary. They're often driven by developmental milestones."
Lauren also pointed out that the current COVID-19 outbreak can contribute to sleep regression. "Obviously, the pandemic has shifted their schedule and routine," she said. "They're sensing that things in the world just aren't normal. They're also sensing some stress and anxiety from their parents, which is causing problems with sleep."
"They're sensing that things in the world just aren't normal."
Along with consistently offering a nap every day, Lauren recommends keeping a consistent routine. "You can even formalize it," she explained. "Some parents go as far as changing their kids into pajamas before their nap. It can be an abbreviated version of your bedtime routine. You might not be taking a bath and having them brush their teeth, but you can bring them into their room, change their diaper, putting them in pajamas or their sleep sack, and reading them a few books. Turning on a white-noise machine is also a great idea."
According to Lauren, the routine doesn't need to be fancy, you just have to do the tasks in the same order every time. "They really need that five minutes of downtime to help them get ready to sleep," she said. "Make sure the room is super dark, too."
What If My Child Who's Experiencing Sleep Regression Shares a Room?
If you have multiple children in the same room, sleep regression can be especially challenging. To ensure everyone gets time to snooze, try shaking up your little ones' environment. "What I always recommend doing is taking the nonproblematic sleeper and moving them into your bedroom for a few nights," she shared. "Maybe you get a pack and play or put their mattress on your floor for a few nights so you can go and tend to the other child without disrupting them."
"You basically have to be a little scrappy," Lauren encouraged. "When you're living in tight quarters, it's not going to be pretty. But you have to remind yourself that it's temporary. It's for the benefit of the child to get everyone sleeping on a schedule. It's usually just a few days with a change in the environment, then it will go back to normal."
What If My Toddler Has Trouble Staying in Bed?
Aside from keeping a strict bedtime schedule, parents can look into purchasing a sleep-trainer nightlight. (We love this affordable option from Mella!) "These products are really beneficial for a few reasons," Lauren said. "If you have a toddler who's having trouble staying in bed, the timer can be a helpful visual cue. If the clock is red, that means we stay quiet and go to sleep. Once the clock turns green, it's morning time and we can call for Mommy and Daddy."
Additionally, a sleep-training clock can be especially helpful for early risers. "We can't force our kids to sleep later," she explained. "But we can improve their environment and schedule. When they wake up, we can help them learn to stay in bed because they know it's not time to get up yet. I definitely recommend them for kids over the age of 2."
What Else Can Parents Do to Encourage Sleep?
If parents are still struggling with getting their kids to sleep, they might want to upgrade the window treatments in their kids' rooms. "I've been noticing recently that there's been a huge influx of kids who are waking up at 5:30 a.m.," she explained. "It could be caused by various reasons, but it also might be caused by the fact there's extra light creeping in in the mornings. You might need to get extra blackout shades for the room because some babies are just really sensitive to that light. Even if it buys you 30 minutes, that might be all you need."