Why Not Let Kids Stay Up Late During the Pandemic? This Is Why

When kids don't get enough sleep, it can be harder to manage their emotions.

Posted Jul 07, 2020

We're in an endless summer—groundhog days blurring one into the other, nothing to do, nowhere to go. Why not let the kids stay up late during the pandemic? 

Many parents are overwhelmed and exhausted after working, e-teaching, and caring for kids 24-7, pandemic-style. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that 46% of parents say their average stress level related to the coronavirus pandemic is high. It’s not easy to muster enough dregs-of-the-day energy to enforce lights-out when the summer sun is still shining. With nothing on the calendar, why not let kids stay up late?

Kids can’t handle emotions nearly as well when they don’t get enough sleep. A recent experimental study showed that inadequate nighttime sleep alters several aspects of children’s emotional health, including the way they experience, regulate, and express their emotions. After getting less sleep, “deleterious alterations” were observed in children’s affect, emotional arousal, facial expressions, and emotion regulation. When presented with something positive, kids didn’t get as excited and didn’t seem as happy. Researchers emphasized that poor sleep often “spills overs” into children’s everyday social and emotional lives, making them more difficult.

Now, more than ever, kids need to be able to handle their emotions. Many are experiencing a range of “big feelings” related to life changes from COVID-19. A Save the Children survey found that of 1,500 households polled:

  • 52% of children say they feel bored at home
  • 49% were worried about a loved one catching COVID-19
  • 34% felt scared
  • 27% felt anxious
  • 22% felt unhappy 

Kids are grieving the loss of their old lives, normalcy, activities, school, and being able to spend (real) time with friends and extended family. They are feeling their parents' economic and societal stress. Now is the time to put them to bed early. Helping kids get enough sleep is one of the simplest ways to boost their emotional health and help them cope.

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