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  • Jessica Berk

Avoid the 2 Biggest Sleep Killers!

There’s a good chance that you’ve recently dealt with one of these two big sleep killers: illness or travel.

You know you’re in for a long night when all of a sudden, your kid won’t let you leave the room at bedtime or starts waking up in the middle of the night…

Read on to learn 4 effective tips for making sure you know how to sleep better EVEN when illness and travel come into the mix (tip 3 is where parents really tend to mess up…)


>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇


The importance of good sleep habits

Kids who have great sleep habits fall asleep easily and sleep for 10-12 hours through the night. And all these kids have one thing in common: consistency. The more consistent sleep is for kids, the tougher it becomes to throw them off schedule. Why? Because sleep habits are just that! Habits. 

Say you went on a camping trip with your kids for a weekend and you didn’t have coffee. You’d probably survive the weekend, but when you got home, you’d be brewing yourself coffee the next morning. Because drinking coffee is a well-established habit. It’s just part of your daily routine. Even if you get out of the habit for a few days, you’ll still come right back to it.  

It’s the same with sleep habits. The key to learning how to sleep better is having a good, consistent sleep routine. And that always starts with bedtime. 

1.Maintain a consistent bedtime routine

Keep your toddler's bedtime routine as consistent as possible, even when they're sick or while you’re traveling. Familiar activities like reading a favorite book, singing lullabies and having a white noise machine can provide familiarity and comfort as well as signaling that it's time for sleep.

This is a big reason why it’s important to have a consistent bedtime routine on a daily basis while you’re at home and your child is healthy. It helps kids learn that after these steps, sleep comes next. It can even help stimulate melatonin production. This is all even more helpful when they’re sleeping in a different location or feeling under the weather. 

2.Be flexible with the sleep schedule

Be consistent with the routine, but flexible with the schedule. 

When you’re traveling, the sleep schedule may look a little different and that’s okay. That’s life. You may not be able to get your child to bed at 7:30pm. Just do what you can to prioritize sleep. If your child is going to bed late, can you encourage a nap during the day? If you’re driving, can you drive during naptime or at night when they’re asleep? To give them a chance to catch up on sleep, try to avoid two late nights in a row. A little planning ahead can go a long way to ensure that their sleep schedule isn’t thrown off too much.

How to sleep better when your kiddo is sick

If your child is sick, they may actually need MORE sleep. Our body needs rest to fight illness and get healthy. But kids' symptoms can make it hard to sleep, which can quickly lead to them becoming overtired. When they’re sick, it may feel like they’re getting even less sleep than normal, and that’s not what we want.

If kids are losing a lot of sleep overnight due to cough, congestion, vomiting - watch their sleepy signs in the evening. They may need a nap even if they’ve stopped napping on a typical day. They could also seem like they need to go to bed super-early, and that’s okay. You can even offer a car nap to help them catch up on sleep. That’s not what I would normally recommend, but during illness sleep becomes the priority, so let them get it however they can.

Now, tip 3 is where many families get it wrong and overcompensate, which leads to more sleep problems down the road…

3.Offer extra comfort and reassurance, but not TOO much

Sleep can be hard when your child doesn’t feel well or they’re sleeping in a new, strange place. If your child is used to falling asleep alone but seems to be struggling, it’s okay to stay and give them some extra TLC. Just think about doing as little as you can to help them get to sleep. You don’t want to start any bad sleep habits that will be hard to break when you’re back home.

For example, if they’re struggling to fall asleep in a different place while you're traveling, you can sit next to them and rub their back for a few minutes. Reassure them that you’re just in the next room, but try to leave once they’re calm and drifting off. 

If your child is coughing, feel free to pat their back, prop them up, put on some Vicks Vaporub and get them calm and settled, then slip out of the room. 

What happens to many families in situations like this is parents end up overcompensating and giving kids too much sleep help. They end up sleeping in bed with the child and waking up to give them reassurance and rub their back. Or they end up letting the child sleep in bed with them to avoid disruptive overnight wake-ups. 

If you’re not careful, giving them all that sleep help can quickly become their expectation all the time. That’s why I say to do as little as possible to get them settled. 

It also helps to let your child know that you’re only doing XYZ (sitting with them, rubbing their back, etc.) because they’re not feeling well, or because it’s the first night at grandma’s house. 

Remember, once your child shows you that they can be a solo sleeper, believe them! Do everything you can to keep encouraging that independent sleep. 

4.Get right back to normal 

The thing about vacations and illnesses is that they end. Most trips and colds only last a few days. You’ll eventually get back home, or your child will start feeling better. Once that happens, you need to get sleep right back on track. 

Many families hit a speed bump here. They keep the sleep help going for longer they need to.

If you were on a trip, stop the sleep help on the first night home. If your child has been sick, be honest with yourself about when they’re feeling better and shouldn’t need your help anymore.

If the sleep routine changed and you ended up dabbling in some habits that you don’t want to bring home with you (like laying in bed with them while they fall asleep or bed-sharing), talk to them about it.

Try this:

“I know that you slept with Mommy and Daddy when we were at grandma’s house, but that was only for our trip. Now we’re home, so you’re going to be sleeping in your own room again. That's always how we sleep when we’re home.”

And don’t be afraid to offer some rewards in the morning if you need to help things get back on track quickly!


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