Bedtime anxiety is a very common issue that parents face. The anxiety usually worsens with age, but frankly, it can appear at any time during childhood once your child develops an imagination.
More common causes of bedtime anxiety include fear of monsters and anxieties about being left alone in the dark. And the fears can manifest in many forms: fear of going down for sleep expressed during the bedtime routine, your child leaving their room at night to come find you, or wanting to climb into your bed during a night wake.
There are several approaches on how to deal with bedtime anxiety, but it is critical to find the best one for your individual child. For a start, you might want to try out a few of the techniques listed below:
Ease your child into bed with a consistent bedtime routine. You may also want to introduce a few additional age-appropriate steps into the bedtime routine to teach them to wind down. For instance, getting them to journal about their day and what they are thankful for, doing breathing exercises/meditation/stretching exercises with them, or actually massaging them, to help them physically wind down.
You should also take steps to find out what exactly is worrying your child. Pay close attention to what they have to say without any judgment, because to them, the fear is real. Then explain to your child the difference between reality and fiction. This will help to alleviate their anxieties. You may have to repeat this a couple of times for it to stick. You may even want to troubleshoot solutions with them, to help them feel more safe.
You can provide a “lovey” to your child, to help foster a sense of security as they lay in bed. A nightlight is also a good tool to deal with bedtime anxiety, but do note it should be dim as possible and only in warm colors to prevent interference with melatonin release in the body.
If your child has a terrifying dream or moment during the night, whatever you do, do not let them crawl into your bed. This will be challenging- I know. But, as a baby sleep specialist, I suggest returning them to their room once they are calmed. If needed, you can sit in the room to provide them reassurance, but be sure to leave the room before they fall back to sleep so they don't depend on you to be there all the time. With time you should fade out this assistance.
Gadgets like TVs, phones, and tablets increase the likelihood of nightly wakeups so it is best to turn off screens at least an hour prior to going to bed. There’s also the issue of a fertile imagination, so monitor what your child is watching- you’ll be surprised how even what appears to be an innocent image to you, can also trigger anxieties.
2 more tips not directly related with how to deal with bedtime anxiety, but which help the process along would include:
Avoid creating a stressful environment before going to bed: so as best as possible no arguments or fights before bedtime.
Avoid sugary or caffeinated snacks as these can artificially jack up your child's energy levels.
In conclusion, what?
Children require assistance in overcoming their bedtime fears, and they require a supporter who is sympathetic to their developmental stage and unique temperament.
As a parent, we can provide them with that sense of security, reassurance, and guidance on what to do when having anxiety at night. The objective is not to shield them entirely from these anxieties, but to help them figure out the right coping strategies to soothe themselves.
If you need guidance on how to deal with bedtime anxieties in your child’s life, feel free to book a call with us and speak with one of our sleep experts.