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18th Feb 2019

12 brilliant insider tips to help kids sleep when they are sick


There are very few things a parent dreads more than pulling an all-nighter with a sick bubs.

And it’s not about the sleep deprivation – which is hard – but that feeling of helplessness that you can’t make them better. Every part of your being wants to be able to make them happy and healthy again. All you can do is manage it, be there, be empathetic, and offer plenty of cuddles.

With common colds and viruses, other than letting nature take its course and keeping fever at bay with ibuprofen, you can’t cure them, but there are a few stellar tricks of the trade we’ve picked up along the bumpy road of snotty noses and dreaded midnight wakings that might help their (and your) journey a little bit more manageable along the way.

We’ve pulled these tips together from other mums and readers on the site, let us know if you have any to add.

1. Menthol rub on feet

Rub a little menthol rub on their chest when they’re chesty, but here’s the added extra: on the soles of their feet too. Try Vicks Vaporub or our family-fave is Snuffle babe which is a gentle mix of Eucalyptus oil, Methol and Thyme oil. Then, just pop on a pair of socks over the rub and let it get to work on de-congesting and helping ease a cough. While it’s not scientifically proven to work, ask any Mum who has tried this trick and they’ll tell you it definitely helps. Is it a placebo effect that calms them into sleep, who knows? But we don’t care, it works!

2. Chicken soup or bone broth

It’s not just an old-wives tale; chicken soup freshly made with meat or chicken bones has anti-inflammatory properties and helps with pulmonary-related problems.

3. Diluted lavender oil in a hottish bath (or just a nice warm bath)

A nice hot steamy bath is brilliant for loosening mucous and opening airwaves, typically if a cough is the main problem. Pop a few drops of pre-diluted lavender oil in – it’s imperative to dilute this with some milk, or any oil (even cooking oil) before putting it into water. Top tip from mum reader Nonie Love: “As an aromatherapist for the last ten years and mother-of-three, lavender is very dangerous to be used directly on children. You see it in children’s products but it’s so diluted that it’s like having one drop in a swimming pool. In children (especially under 24 months) lavender can cause burns and breathing problems when applied.” So caution is key with this tip. If you’re concerned, leave out the lavender oil.

4. Hot water bottle

These are a nightly must in our house, especially when they’re under-the-weather. I firmly believe they help with keeping them in their own beds too. Make sure they have a soft, fluffy or novelty cover and make it a part of the nightly routine when they’re not feeling a hundred per cent.

5. Humidifier with some Eucalyptus oil

Invest in one of these if your little one is prone to coughs – the warm, steamy air is brilliant to loosen up tight, tickly throats. If your humidifier allows it, add some Eucalyptus oil to decongest.

6. Saline nasal spray

A blocked nose or congested sinus does not make for a good nights sleep for anyone. Saline spray to the rescue. It’s tricky to administer – well, who wants salty water sprayed up their nose, in fairness, but it’s brilliant. Two sprays in both nostrils while they are laying down, then a big nose blow works a treat right.

7. Pop a cushion under their pillow

Especially for earaches or sinus pain, an elevated head will help with pressure discomfort. If they have a really snotty nose, and they’re coughing, it could be caused by nasal dripping down the back of the throat so slide a cushion under their pillow to help prop them up.

9. Sea salt in a sock for earaches

Anyone who has ever had an earache will tell you; it’s one of the most miserable pains you can endure. Your whole head aches. I love this idea for sore ears, from Pour natural sea salt into a sock and heat gently – sounds weird, but the natural healing properties in the salt combined with the heat gently pressed against the ear area can reduce the pressure build-up.

10 Double-up on sheets

Got a puker? Two sheets is a must if the first get soiled. Think of the effortlessness of a 3am change of bedsheets, You’ll thank us for it. Another tip is to put dry night sheets under both sheets in case it leaks through.

11. Honey and lemon drink 

For tickly coughs, this coats the throat in soothing honey before bedtime, hopefully easing the urge to get into that vicious circle of coughing, once they start, the throat gets dryer at each cough.

12. Serve the BRAT diet

They might not have an appetite, but to ease digestion while they recuperate, think BRAT: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. In turn, this will hopefully help them sleep better as their digestion isn’t working too hard to break down more complicated foods.