Children's Sleep During COVID-19: How Sleep Influences Surviving and Thriving in Families

J Pediatr Psychol. 2021 Sep 27;46(9):1051-1062. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsab075.


Objective: The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to disrupt the lives of families and may have implications for children with existing sleep problems. As such, we aimed to: (1) characterize sleep changes during the COVID-19 pandemic in children who had previously been identified as having sleep problems, (2) identify factors contributing to sleep changes due to COVID-19 safety measures, and (3) understand parents' and children's needs to support sleep during the pandemic.

Methods: Eighty-five Canadian parents with children aged 4-14 years participated in this explanatory sequential, mixed-methods study using an online survey of children's and parents' sleep, with a subset of 16 parents, selected based on changes in their children's sleep, participating in semi-structured interviews. Families had previously participated in the Better Nights, Better Days (BNBD) randomized controlled trial.

Results: While some parents perceived their child's sleep quality improved during the COVID-19 pandemic (14.1%, n = 12), many parents perceived their child's sleep had worsened (40.0%, n = 34). Parents attributed children's worsened sleep to increased screen time, anxiety, and decreased exercise. Findings from semi-structured interviews highlighted the effect of disrupted routines on sleep and stress, and that stress reciprocally influenced children's and parents' sleep.

Conclusions: The sleep of many Canadian children was affected by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the disruption of routines influencing children's sleep. eHealth interventions, such as BNBD with modifications that address the COVID-19 context, could help families address these challenges.

Keywords: COVID-19; children; eHealth; mental health; parents; sleep.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Parents
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sleep