What causes sleep anxiety in children?

August 26, 2020 4 mins read
What causes sleep anxiety in children?

If your child is frequently complaining that they can’t sleep because they are scared, your little one may be suffering from sleep anxiety. The problem is, when children can’t sleep, parents don’t get much shut-eye either. If your child’s sleep anxiety is getting in the way of a good night’s rest, it’s time to take back control of bedtime.

Regain some normalcy in your child’s routine with these tips to ease sleep anxiety.

What is sleep anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences excessive worry or fear about sleeping. Even adults can suffer from sleep anxiety, which can lead to other sleep-related problems like insomnia.

Symptoms of sleep anxiety In children

Not all children experience the same symptoms of sleep anxiety, but there are a few common signs to look out for.

  • Waking in the night. Your child may wake up suddenly in the night and seek you out for comfort.
  • Having bad dreams. Nightmares are a regular occurrence of children who have sleep anxiety.
  • Wetting the bed. This could be a sign of emotional and mental distress as a child may express their fear by unintentionally wetting the bed.

Things to help your child sleep

There are many ways to soothe your child’s sleep anxiety and help them get a good night’s rest.

Reducing stimulants like caffeine and sodas will help your child sleep as these drinks can increase their energy levels, making them more susceptible to sleep anxiety. Similarly, limiting liquids before bed helps to reduce the number of trips to the bathroom or create anxiety if they are afraid of bedwetting.

You can find more ways to soothe your child’s sleep anxiety below.

Listen to your child’s fears

Don’t dismiss their concerns. Hearing them out will make them feel secure and safe and take the burden off their young minds, especially if they are prone to thinking too much before bed.

Create a bedtime routine

Rituals like bathtime and a glass of milk help to develop a consistent sleeping pattern, which can help keep sleep anxiety at bay.

Limit screen time before bed

The blue light that devices and TVs emit can increase the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.

Read a short bedtime story

Reading a story to your child will help take their mind off any worries they might have. You can also let them listen to a calm sleep story.

Avoid scary stories and films

Often, scary films can be a trigger for sleep anxiety as children may be afraid that they will experience frightening dreams about what they have watched. The same applies to scary bedtime stories.

Practise a stress-relieving routine

Creating special bedtime rituals can help your child feel safe and secure and ease their sleep anxiety. An interesting example of a sleep ritual exists in Guatemala, in which children are encouraged to express their worries and fears to a small doll. They then place the doll under their pillow, and fall asleep knowing that they have given their fears and worries away.

Other forms of treatment for sleep anxiety

If you’re trying everything you can to reduce your child’s sleep anxiety but you’re still not seeing any improvement, it may be time to consult your doctor about possible solutions and sleep aids. Medication such as melatonin supplements can help to regulate sleep patterns and ease sleep anxiety.

Other natural remedies to help children sleep include drinking sleep teas, which have a calming effect. Yoga is also a relaxing way for your child to stretch their muscles and to calm down before bed.

There’s no reason for children to experience prolonged discomfort because of sleep anxiety. When your child feels safe and secure at bedtime, they will be able to nod off more comfortably. Be there for them to help ease their fears and develop a calm bedtime routine so that they can enjoy good quality sleep, free of worry.