Tips to help kids catch more zzz’s while hospitalized

(L to R) Theresa Kirkpatrick, clinical nurse specialist; Dr. Yonca Bulut, professor of pediatric critical care; Dr. Myke Federman, associate clinical professor of pediatric critical care; and PICU nurse Jennifer Armstrong designed and implemented the sleep initiative to help patients get more sleep and improve their healing.

As parents of hospitalized children know, sleep for young patients can be hard to come by in the hospital because so many things can disturb the normal sleep pattern the child has at home.

Staff at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA have found a way to help. An initiative called Supporting Sleep for Health and Healing, or SSHH program, has helped increase sleep.

Parents can help too. Here are some tips to help hospitalized kids catch more zzz’s:

  • Try to keep your child on a similar sleep schedule as the one at home, with time for extra naps and longer sleep periods at night.
  • Make the hospital room as dark as possible at night and as light as possible during times when your child is awake. This will keep your child aware of day and night changes and encourage natural sleep.
  • Use items from home to provide comfort to your child, particularly during sleep – a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, for example, or a pillow from home.
  • Play soft music or white noise to drown out some of usual hospital noises that will disrupt sleep.
  • Try to time a warm bath for just before bedtime.
  • Try motion. Rocking or swinging can help infants fall asleep better.  So can swaddling.
  • Create story time.  Hearing a parent’s voice can soothe kids and help them get to sleep. If parents can’t be there in person, they can tape a favorite bedtime story.  For older kids, audio books can be a good alternative.
  • Speak up. Parents should not hesitate to ask nurses to be quiet when entering the room.

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