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Sleep And Illness | Sweet Dreams | giggle Blogs

sleep and illness

July 17, 2010

Sleep: the Best Medicine

My sweet baby girl has caught what our pediatrician diagnosed as hand, foot and mouth disease (not to be confused with foot and mouth disease).  This common virus starts with a high fever and includes either sores in the mouth or blisters/rash on the hands and feet, or some combination of these symptoms.  In short, it is not a pleasant virus.

The reason I am mentioning this is because her nap schedule and night sleep has been off as a result.  When children aren’t feeling well, the “rules” we typically follow for sleep need to shift.  I find that the following guidelines work well with sick children:

1. Make quality sleep a priority. This means that you should avoid napping on the go and stay home as much as possible (and under these conditions, that is probably a given). We know that when children nap on the go they tend to stay in lighter stages of sleep.  The healing effects of sleep are triggered during deep sleep.  This is when growth hormones are secreted, which faciliates absorption of key nutrients while also stimulating bone marrow, where immune system cells are.  Furthermore, melatonin (more on this hormone in a future post) inhibits tumor growth, prevents viral infects and stimulates antibodies.  Surely this is the best remedy for recovery! Best of all, it’s free and readily available.

2. Do not awaken your sleeping baby – unless advised otherwise by your pediatrician – even if s/he is sleeping longer than usual. If you do, you’ll likely have a pretty miserable child on your hands.  And, as you now know from point #1, sleep is the best healing agent.

3. Consider and earlier bedtime. Expect your child to need more sleep so consider an earlier bedtime to help *fill* your child up on sleep.  If you’re worried that putting your child to bed earlier will make him/her wake up earlier in the morning, I can assure you that it won’t.  If anything, it will help your child to sleep more soundly and possibly even sleep in a little later the following morning.

If you attend to your baby’s needs while they are sick, but get back to your routine as quickly as possible once they feel well, most children won’t skip a beat in their good sleep habits.