Sleep plays a huge role in recovery when a baby is sick. Babies on average tend to sleep longer when they are sick. This often results in alterations to their sleep patterns. This is a common cause of concern for parents.
Even though sleep aids recovery and helps with healing and rejuvenation, excessive sleeping can be a valid reason to worry. This article will be looking at the benefits of sleep for sick infants and the differences between healthy and unhealthy sleep for a sick baby.
Benefits of Sleep in a Sick Baby’s Recovery
Sleep is a vital part of a healthy routine for everyone including infants. When the body is in the sleep state, the body releases hormones that help with healing, overall wellness, and fighting antibodies.
Asides this, sleep also helps with brain development which is essential for good health. When a baby gets enough rest, they would be able to conserve their energy, strengthen their immune system and recover quickly.
Normal Sleep Patterns for Babies
Unlike adults, babies need to sleep for longer periods daily. The healthy sleep range for newborns is 14 to 17 hours daily and 12 to 15 hours daily for infants. As babies grow, they would spend more time awake than they previously did. They also adjust to sleeping for shorter periods during the day and longer periods at night.
Common Sleep Changes in Sick Babies
A baby’s sleep pattern is bound to face changes when they fall sick and while they are recovering. Understanding the expected changes can help you gauge how much sleep is too much for your sick baby. Some of these changes include:
The body sort of works overtime to fight off infections and speed up recovery when babies are sick. For this, babies often need extra sleep to cushion the effects of the illness on the body. This is totally healthy.
Frequent Night Waking
It is common for babies to find it hard to stay asleep when they are sick. Very often, they would wake up many times at night. This is nothing to worry about and it would change with time.
Babies tend to eat less when they are sick. This is due to changes in appetite. This will also affect their sleep, as they will wake up more frequently due to hunger.
Difficulty Falling Asleep
Illnesses come with discomfort and this can be unsettling for many babies especially if there are issues like congestion or constipation. This often makes it difficult for babies to fall asleep.
When is Too Much Sleep a Concern?
While it is normal for a sick baby to sleep more than usual, excessive sleep might be a cause for concern. Here are some scenarios where too much sleep could indicate an issue:
Lethargy refers to the state where babies sleep so much that they start having trouble staying awake or waking up. This is a sign of an underlying issue and should be treated with attention. Sometimes, it could be due to something simple like dehydration or a more severe illness. Do not hesitate to see your healthcare provider after observing this.
Little changes to their sleep patterns can be ignored but dramatic changes should be discussed with a pediatrician.
Difficulty in Waking Up
While sick babies may be sleepier than usual, they should still wake up for feedings. If your baby is difficult to rouse and shows lack of interest in feeding, seek your pediatrician.
Respiratory illnesses like asthma, pneumonia, or bronchitis affects breathing. The amount of oxygen taken in during these situations tend to be low and it becomes impossible to get quality, relaxing sleep. This can create fatigue even after long hours of sleep.
Read Also: Baby Massage For Sleep
Managing a Sick Baby’s Sleep
Taking extra measures to ensure your baby gets quality sleep when they are sick helps them recover speedily. Below are some things you can do to improve your baby’s sleep hygiene and quality.
Provide a Comfortable Sleep Environment
The sleep environment plays a big role in sleep quality. Do well to ensure the room is dark and the temperature is optimal.
Elevate the Head
Nasal congestion slows breathing which in turn affects sleep. If your baby has a cold or is dealing with congestion, raise their head up a little to help them breathe better.
Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule
A predictable sleep schedule helps prepare the body ahead of sleep. This would make it easy for the baby to fall asleep without difficulty and sleep well.
If your baby’s illness comes with symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, providing them with enough fluids will keep them hydrated and enhance sleep.
Offer Extra Cuddles and Attention
Comfort and feelings of security impacts your child’s psychological wellbeing and can boost recovery. You can never offer too much of kisses, cuddles, and attention!
Monitor Their Symptoms
Keep track of their symptoms even as they are recovering. It can help you understand what is affecting their sleep.
Use Medications Wisely
Only give medications that have been duly prescribed by a qualified health care provider. Follow the dosage and administration instructions religiously. Also, some medications can induce drowsiness which could make your baby sleep longer than usual. You can discuss this with your doctor if the side effects become unmanageable.
Balance Rest and Activity
Resting may help them gain their energy back but indulging in light actives can be equally beneficial. Encourage them to have short interactions and play periods.
When to Seek Medical Attention
In rare cases, the changes to the sleep patterns do not resolve after the body has recovered from the illness. In these situations, you need to promptly seek medical attention. Here are a few instances to take note of:
A fever that is consistently high and does not subside after other symptoms go away may be a sign of another issue.
Signs of Dehydration
Dry mouth, sunken eyes, and reduced urine output are common signs of dehydration. Dehydration is often easy to manage at home but once these signs have been spotted, see a doctor.
Persistent Vomiting or Diarrhea
Prolonged diarrhea and vomiting can lead to other issues. Seeking early medical attention will help prevent things from worsening.
If your baby shows signs of respiratory distress, such as rapid or labored breathing, flaring nostrils, or bluish lips, do not try to manage the situation on your own. Your healthcare provider will be able to come up with a personalized care plan.
Lethargy and Unresponsiveness
Once your baby becomes unresponsive, or unusually lethargic, seek emergency medical care right away.
Read Also: Are Sleep Positioners Safe for Infants?
How Much Sleep Is Too Much For a Sick Baby?
Now, let’s look at factors to be considered when determining how much sleep is too much sleep for a sick baby. Note that, all babies are unique and these comparisons should be done individually. That is, the sleep changes your baby starts to show when they are sick should only be compared to their sleep patterns when they are well.
1. Babies’ Sleep Needs
Before we delve into the specific sleep requirements for a sick baby, it’s essential to understand their typical sleep needs. Newborns up to three months old require around 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day, while babies aged four to eleven months need about 12 to 15 hours of sleep daily. These figure include both daytime naps and nighttime sleep.
2. Factors Influencing Sleep During Illness
When a baby is unwell, their sleep patterns can be significantly affected. Various factors influence the amount of sleep a sick baby may need. This factors include:
- Severity of Illness
The more severe the illness, the more sleep your baby may require. Serious infections or conditions can leave them feeling drained, hence they will require more sleep time.
- Medication Effects
Certain prescriptions given when babies are sick can cause drowsiness, leading to increased sleepiness in your baby.
Fever is a common symptom of many illnesses, and it can make babies feel more fatigued than usual, resulting in longer sleep durations.
- Disrupted Sleep
Illness may disrupt regular sleep patterns, causing babies to wake up more frequently during the night or experience difficulty falling asleep.
3. Observe Your Baby
As a parent, it’s essential to closely monitor your sick baby’s behavior to gauge whether they are getting an appropriate amount of sleep. Look out for signs of sleepiness or fatigue, like uncontrolled yawning, eye rubbing, irritability, and lack of interest in playtime. If your baby is displaying these signs, they might need more sleep to aid their recovery.
4. Letting Your Baby Sleep as Needed
It’s always best to follow the baby’s guide and let them sleep as much as they need. Illness can be physically taxing on their little bodies, and adequate rest only aids the healing process. Allow your baby to nap during the day and provide extra comfort and support during nighttime waking.
5. Wake Your Baby for Essential Needs
While it’s important to let your baby sleep as much as they need, there are exceptions. If your baby is very young (e.g., a newborn) or has a medical condition that requires specific feeding intervals, you may need to gently wake them for essential needs like feeding or administering medication. Ensure to consult with your pediatrician regarding the necessity of waking your baby in such circumstances.
Sleep sounds harmless but can be harmful depending on context. When it comes to caring for your special little one, tracking something as simple as their sleep means a whole lot. It’s completely fine for babies to sleep longer when they are sick. This is also common in adults. All you need to do is to pay attention to the changes and offer them as much comfort and security as possible. Where unusual signs are noted, see a doctor immediately.