Illness and Baby Sleep in 2024. How to Manage Sleep When Your Baby Is Sick.

by | Oct 7, 2023 | Top tips

As a parent, it’s heart breaking to see your little one feeling unwell. It’s so hard to comfort them while meeting all their other needs and also trying to help them get the rest they need. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. Don’t worry, let’s take a look at ways to help your sick baby sleep better and hopefully recover faster.

In this blog post, I will guide you through the process of helping your baby get the rest they need when they’re feeling under the weather. From understanding the impact of illness and baby sleep to getting back on track after they recover, we’ll cover everything you need to know to help your baby rest and recuperate.

Let’s get you equipped with the knowledge and tools to create a comfortable sleep environment for your sick baby, adjust sleep routines and expectations during illness, and provide nighttime care that promotes rest and recovery.

Let’s dive in and help your little one get the sleep they need!

Understanding the Impact of Illness and Baby Sleep

illness and baby sleep

It’s no surprise that when a baby is sick it can disrupt babies sleep. Those little bodies are working overtime to fight off the infection and illness, which can lead to more frequent waking in the night for care needs to be met. They’re also likely to have a high temperature or fever which is really miserable! Not forgetting the addition of general discomfort with nausea or rashes such as chicken pox.

Addressing the underlying issue is a key step towards achieving consistent night sleep outcomes in the future. Make sure you’ve discussed their condition with their GP or other suitable professional, but reassuringly, most general childhood conditions can be managed in the comfort of your home.

Offering extra comfort to your sick baby can not only make them feel better generally, but a happier baby will sleep and feed better too. Remember, stress and anxiety can make it difficult for a baby to fall asleep when they are ill so try and remain positive and happy when around your baby (I know this is hard when they’re sick!), emotions can transfer.

Common Illnesses Affecting Baby Sleep

Colds, ear infections, and fevers are common childhood illnesses that can affect your baby’s sleep.

These common illnesses can cause discomfort and disrupted sleep, making it challenging for your little one to get the rest they need. Babies are especially prone to more frequent illnesses as their immune systems are under developed.

Not to mention the plethora of colds and infections when they start mixing with others at daycare settings! If you’re unsure (ie if it’s not just the common cold) then calling 111, visiting your pharmacist or GP will help identifying the specific illness your baby is experiencing. Once we know this, that will help you provide the right kind of comfort and care they need to recover and sleep better.

It’s worth saying to trust your parenting gut instinct on this one too! Sometimes we ‘just know’, or have a ‘niggling feeling’ it’s not right. Trust your instincts, you’ll be picking up on some small cues and can act on them fast.

How Illness Affects Baby Sleep Quality

Illness can have two polar effects. It can lead to an increase in your baby’s sleep needs, or conversely a difficulty in maintaining sleep, thus affecting their sleep quality and hindering their recovery.

If your baby’s nap extends beyond the duration of their usual nap, it is appropriate to check on them first, you’ll probably be able to check their nappy and take their temperature whilst still sleeping.

If you’re worried, wake them and seek medical attention if necessary. Otherwise let them catch up on their rest. You may choose to sit nearby whilst they rest.

Making sure your baby is well-fed and hydrated underpins healthy sleep when sick. Breast milk or formula can be a source of comfort and nutrition during this time.

Your GP or Pharmacist may also advise using rehydration salts such as Dioralyte if they’ve also been suffering from vomiting and/or diarrhoea.

Creating a Comfortable Sleep Environment for a Sick Baby

sleep environment during illness

Creating a comfortable sleep environment for your sick baby involves maintaining optimal temperature and humidity levels, as well as providing soothing sounds and darkness. Monitoring the temperature and humidity levels in your baby’s room is helpful, especially if they are congested. Some baby monitors will be able to do all this for you!

Camping out

You may also want to be closer to your baby or child when they’re unwell. If they’re under 6 months it’s likely they’ll still be sharing a room with you and you can respond quickly if they’re unwell at night.

If they’re older and in their own room, you may want to consider setting up a camp bed in their room for night sleep. This will help keep them in their own familiar sleep environment, but you will be able to provide comfort and reassurance more quickly. It also means they don’t need to change their own bed for another and that familiarity will help provide comfort.

Soothing sounds

A calming atmosphere can be created by playing soothing music, using a white noise machine, and maintaining a dark environment. This can help some fractious and fussy unwell babies relax a little. For babies who are congested, you may want to try using saline drops, a cool-mist humidifier, or a steamy bathroom.

Creating a cool, dark, and tranquil environment aids your little one in getting the rest they need.

Adjusting Sleep Routines and Expectations During Illness

illness and child sleep

During illness, flexibility with baby’s sleep schedules and prioritising rest and recovery for your baby is crucial. Your baby may require more restful days with shorter wake windows and longer naps, or they may need the same amount of activity as usual as distraction from feeling rubbish is always helpful!

Providing comfort measures like suctioning of the nose, using a humidifier, and administering Calpol or Ibuprofen (always follow recommended dosages) may help promote rest for a poorly infant.

Following your baby’s cues and adjusting their sleep schedule accordingly supports their healing process and ensures they get the rest they need.

Flexibility in Sleep Schedules

Whilst a consistent morning rise time really helps well babies stay or ‘get back on track’, you can be more flexible with a poorly baby, allowing a lie in or some slow mornings with lots of contact naps.

Nighttime Care for a Sick Baby

feeding a sick baby

Nighttime care for a sick baby involves:

  • Attending to night waking
  • Ensuring adequate nutrition and liquid intake throughout the night
  • Making time for extra cuddles and comfort

If your baby is sleeping for an extended period of time and has been suffering from dehydration, your health professional may suggest it may be necessary to rouse them to drink for nourishment fluid intake. Monitoring the number of wet diapers can also help you identify if your infant may be dehydrated so keep a little diary.

If you’re worried this will be problematic for night weaning then please don’t! As they get better, you’ll be able to work on reducing the night feeds again.

Responding to Night Waking

It’s imperative to attend to your baby’s needs during night waking, providing comfort and assurance. If you’ve used out of room sleep training methods in the past, they do not apply when your baby is sick.

Getting Back on Track After Illness

mother, child, family

Once your baby has recovered from their illness, it’s time to get back on track with their regular sleep routines and address any new sleep associations that may have developed during the illness.

Whether you decide to gradually do a little less or consider to sleep train or use a coaching method you’ve previously used it’s up to you. Take your time and re-establish their sleep routine. Your baby is able and capable to return to pre-illness sleep!

It’s best to anticipate a period of 2-4 nights before a regular routine is re-established. Maintaining consistency during this period will help

Identifying and addressing any new sleep associations helps your baby maintain healthy sleep habits and ensures a smooth transition back to their regular sleep routines.


Throughout this blog post, we’ve covered some steps for helping your sick baby sleep better and recover faster. From understanding the impact of illness on sleep to creating a comfortable environment and managing nighttime care, you now have the tools to help your little one get the rest they need during illness.

As your baby recovers, remember to gradually re-establish sleep routines and address any new sleep associations that may have developed. By following these guidelines, you’ll be providing your baby with the care and support they need to rest, recover, and thrive.

Remember, sleep is crucial for your baby’s healing process, and your love and care during this challenging time will make all the difference. Stay strong, and here’s to healthy sleep for your little one!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can illness affect baby sleep?

Illness can definitely affect baby sleep, as babies who are unwell often wake more frequently throughout the night and struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep. Extra help may be required for these babies, such as extra cuddles or feedings, to get them through their illness and enable them to rest properly.

How long does illness affect baby sleep?

Illness can affect baby sleep significantly, often causing babies to wake more frequently or even to remain awake throughout the night.

How can I create a comfortable sleep environment for my sick baby?

To create a comfortable sleep environment for your sick baby, maintain the right temperature and humidity levels in the room, create some soothing sound and darkness, and reduce congestion and coughing.

How do I re-establish my baby’s sleep routine after they recover from an illness?

Gradually reintroduce your baby’s regular sleep routine, use a sleep training technique if needed, and be patient as they adjust back to their pre-illness sleep patterns. Gradually reintroduce your baby’s regular sleep routine, utilise a sleep support technique if needed, and be patient as they adjust back to their pre-illness sleep patterns.

Still need help?

I’m here to help! I can tailor advice and plans to your family and situation.

I can help establish good sleep bedtime habits and provide tips on how to cope with inevitable nighttime disruptions, I offer tried-and-tested sleep training solutions that are well worth the investment for your whole family.

Have a look at my sleep consultant packages or directly get in touch.




Hi, I’m Gemma, your sleep consultant

I am a certified baby and child sleep specialist who works with families all over the world.

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