The lingering effects of pandemic sleep for kids

Children are still groggy from sleep disruptions during the pandemic. Here’s how parents can help.

Eleven-year-old Phoebe Rothenberg never had trouble sleeping, but when her school shuttered during the initial COVID-19 wave in March 2020, her sleep took an immediate hit. To cope with the disruption, she turned to late-night reading. “But then she’d have trouble getting up in the morning, and it became this very vicious cycle,” says mom Victoria Rothenberg, a fiber artist and mother of three in Maryland.

Once Phoebe’s days resumed a more normal rhythm, her sleep schedule quickly regained ground. But with life still uncertain, it’s an uneasy equilibrium. Disruption to routines, for example, can easily set her back.

And she’s not alone. It will probably surprise no parent that studies show that sleep quality for elementary-school-age children suffered during the pandemic, particularly in the early weeks of the lockdown. And in a forthcoming paper in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers at the University of Michigan found that kids in this age group—especially those in remote learning—awakened more readily in the middle of the night and experienced more nightmares.

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