Are you seeing an increase in sleep issues during this pandemic?

Many parents are finding that their children’s sleep patterns have become disturbed during the Coronavirus pandemic. Here is an interesting article from the New York Times written by Dr Craig Canapari who is director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale New Haven Hospital You can download the original article at

If you are struggling with your child’s sleep issues please contact your Public Health Nurse who is trained to offer you support and guidance.

Bedtime Was Hard Enough. Then Came Quarantine.

Kids across the world are having trouble sleeping. There are ways to help.

Picture Credit…María Medem


Pediatricians in Italy have seen widespread sleep disturbances, among other problems, in children during the pandemic. I wondered what sort of sleep problems our lockdowns were generating and wanted to try to help tired parents if I could. There aren’t many U.S. pediatric sleep doctors, and parents wait up to six months to see physicians in my clinic, so I took to social media and email to contact my network of parents and ask if their children’s sleep had suffered. I received more than 300 responses in one day and noticed several recurring themes.

One common issue is that children are shifting their sleep schedule later, resulting in stressed parents and children. On the other hand, Laura Jean Miller, a psychiatrist in Atlanta, wrote that her teenage patients are sleeping later but feeling well rested.

Getting up late isn’t necessarily bad, especially for teenagers. However, when young children stay up late, they can push into the only downtime left to stressed parents. Some research also suggests that later bedtimes are tied to lower long-term cognitive performance in young kids. A British team looked at 10,000 7-year-olds and found bedtimes consistently later than 9 p.m. in early childhood were associated with difficulty in reading and math in elementary school. If your child’s schedule is drifting later, keep the shift to one hour, or two for teenagers.

Longer sleep-related shifts will be harder to unwind when this is all over. Stop screen time 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime, since intense, close-up light exposure in the evening will push sleep later by suppressing the secretion of melatonin, a sleep hormone. Likewise, don’t close your child’s shades, since natural morning light may help wake her up. Take a walk or play outside first thing to start the day with sunlight that will help her circadian rhythm.

Of course, if the schedule change is working for you, it’s OK to lean into it, temporarily. One mother told me her toddler’s sleep schedule moved two hours later, shifting from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., so now she’s waking up at 9 a.m. instead of two hours earlier. Now she and her partner let their daughter sleep in each morning so they can work.

Many parents said they are seeing more conflicts around bedtime or naps. Although many working parents now spend all day with their children, that doesn’t mean they are getting as much quality time with them. As we bounce between conference calls, keep up with virtual schooling, prepare food and keep the house going, children can feel neglected and needier than ever at bedtime, so they push back.

“They almost seem more starved for my attention,” wrote Lauren Assalley, a school psychologist from Taylorville, Ill., with two young children. Her husband works as a funeral director and has been out of the home for long days during the epidemic.

A kid who refuses to nap poses a tough obstacle for parents trying to work remotely. If your child is demanding more attention at nap time and bedtime, try to carve out more quality time with him during the day, difficult as it may be. Take breaks where you focus entirely on your child, even for 10 or 15 minutes, which may reduce your child’s neediness.

[Now is a great time to help your child learn to play independently and you can check out tips in our next article.  ]

Also, make sure that your evenings are relaxed. Some families have discovered leisurely evenings to be an unexpected benefit of social distancing. “We’re actually finding bedtime to be so much more pleasant, and earlier, than when we’re both working all day,” wrote Lauren Hansen, of Westchester, N.Y. If your child is older than 2 and refuses to nap, it’s OK to enforce 30 minutes of quiet downtime, even if you have to resort to giving them a screen.

Many parents complained that their kids are waking up in the middle of the night and visiting a parent’s bed more than before. This can be a sign that your child is feeling anxious or is struggling to process stress. Katherine Benvenuti, a pastry chef in Portland, Ore., opened a bakery and restaurant, named Bar King, the week that Oregon restaurants were closed down. Her 3-year-old started waking up at night for two to three hours at a stretch. She and her husband stopped talking about coronavirus around him, which has made a big difference.

“He’s not waking up anymore and he’s falling asleep more easily,” Benvenuti wrote in an email. “It’s hard to remember that, even when my children are quietly playing by themselves in the living room, they are absorbing all of what my husband and I are saying.”

Watching the news can be stressful for some children. Children also may be grieving missed birthday parties, school plays or athletic events. Acknowledge these losses and try to find alternatives. If your child is sad about not being able to have a birthday party, arrange a surprise Zoom call with family and friends.

Physical activity, especially outdoors, seems to help with all of these issues. Krystal Watson, a mother in Montana, said: “We have a daily routine that includes going outside as much as possible, and this makes a huge difference.” When they don’t exercise, she wrote, there are “restless nights.” I’ve seen this in my practice as well. Tire your kids out. Play tag. Go for a long walk. Have a dance party with your family. This will help everyone sleep better.

But there’s only so much you can do, and not every sleep issue has a simple solution. Or you may not have the bandwidth for any of this, and that’s OK. Sometimes you just need to survive. One mother in Buffalo, N.Y., whose husband is self-quarantining in the basement after a coronavirus exposure, told me she was breaking all the rules and letting her kids watch television before bed, sleep in her room and stay up late, which fixed their sleep problems.

She knows she is developing habits she will need to address when this is all over. But give yourself a break if it helps your child, and you, sleep better at night.

Craig Canapari is director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Yale New Haven Hospital and author of “It’s Never Too Late to Sleep Train.”

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Safer Internet Day takes place next Tuesday, 7th February 2023. Sadly more than 1 in 4 young people in Ireland have experienced cyberbullying, yet only 60% of victims tell their parents. As teenagers and children spend more time on the internet, ensuring it's a safe space is ever more important. To encourage conversation about life online and help parents keep their children safe, I'd like to share a free resource created by It's a comprehensive guide which includes things like:
  • How to reduce the risks online
  • How to recognise cyber bullying and grooming
  • How to educate children on cyber safety
  • How to set up parental controls on devices
I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
  9. Set a great example:  You're the greatest 'influencer' in your children's lives when they're young.  Limiting your time online, discussing dangers you've come across, and questioning what you view can help reinforce the rules you are setting for your children and, in turn, influence their online behaviour.
  10. Seek support:The more you learn about online dangers, the better equipped you'll be to handle them. There are some great resources like  webwise.ieinternetmatters.organd to help you recognise and reduce online dangers and seek advice if you think your child is experiencing cyberbullying or is at risk online.
        Short videos on the Importance of Play have recently launched which was a collaboration between North Central CFSN and Lifestart Services.   Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4 Volume 5 Volume 6

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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