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Anxiety at Bedtime: Should I be worried?

Anxiety at bedtime

Do you remember when your kids were young and you wondered when they would sleep through the night? The relief you felt when they finally did? If you ask any parent, it is without question a milestone when their child sleeps through. They then enter their tween stage and then for a lot of parents, something happens to their child. Bedtime starts to become a source of worry and stress. They don’t look forward to bedtime and they may worry about being able to fall asleep. These changes could be a sign that your child is going through anxiety at bedtime.

Anxiety at Bedtime: Symptoms

Before discussing the symptoms of anxiety at bedtime, it is important to talk about anxiety on its own. First of all, it is normal for a child to sometimes be anxious. You will find that what they are anxious about will change as they get older. The first form of anxiety that most parents will notice is separation anxiety. It is when this anxiety becomes extreme that parents should take a closer look at what is the cause.

Beyond Blue states that when you suspect your child has anxiety, they may often seek reassurance from you. They may tell you they have physical pain or have a lot of fears and gets upset quite easily. You may have noticed they cling to you or worry a lot about doing things right all the time. They also always see the dangerous or negative side to things.

Child anxiety at bedtime are these fears and worries magnified at bedtime. Some symptoms you may notice are:

  •  They will start to worry well before their actual bedtime
  • They worry about not being able to fall asleep at all
  • When waking up during the night, they worry about not being able to fall asleep again. As a result, from the anxiety, they unfortunately do not fall back to sleep
It is safe to say all these symptoms are irrational thinking. You will find that when you try and reason with your child about this, you will likely be met with confusion, resistance and tears. Remember, this is their normal and in their mind these fears are real. So, what do you do? The best thing you can do is to help them to learn techniques on how to fall asleep. Build a routine with them that makes them feel safe and relaxed.


Tips to help reduce child anxiety at bedtime

To reduce anxiety at bedtime comes down to putting in place techniques that will help keep them calm. One important thing to remember is that the fears and worries they have in their mind are exactly that. It is not fear of their bedroom or anything they can see or touch but rather an irrational fear of things they make up in their mind. Here are five techniques you can put in place at home to reduce the anxiety at bedtime in your child.

  • Set up a routine

It is important to understand that to be able to reduce fear and anxiety, you need to know what is coming up ahead. This is where a good bedtime routine plays a big role. Something simple like having a bath to relax your child might help. Then a bedtime story and getting to sleep around the same time will also help. This means they know exactly what to expect and this then reduces their anxiety.

  • Have a chat

When they settled into bed, put some time aside to have a chat. They can talk about what is on their mind. If they have any fears that are starting to creep up, make sure you acknowledge them and then reassure them. When you say to them it’s time to leave then it’s exactly that, make sure you set boundaries. They may try and call you back for more chat time or to actually stay and sleep with them. Let them know the routine and stay firm when leaving them to rest and fall asleep.

  • What are they scared of?

So, you can see them starting to worry and anxiety is creeping up at bedtime again. Ask them what is making them scared. Is it the dark, or noises or something else? By identifying what is making them scared, you can then battle that fear together.

  • Avoid day time naps

You might find that by allowing them a day time nap, they are more alert at night and hence won’t fall asleep. Keeping them up and active will ensure that by bedtime their bodies are ready to rest. Older children if getting enough sleep overnight should not need a nap during the day.

  • Associate bedtime with a sense of safety

A sense that they are not safe is one of the main causes that anxiety at bedtime sets in. Thoughts that a monster is under their bed or they hear noises that make their imagination go wild. Create a haven for them in their bedroom to make them feel safe. Have a night light to create a sense of warmth but also security so that it's not all dark. Make sure there isn’t any noises that might stop them from sleeping like the TV or phone. Make sure these are off an hour before bedtime.

Anxiety at bedtime is still happening

So, you have tried all these techniques and nothing has worked, now what? It would be a good idea to book in to see their pediatrician. They can give further advice and rule out anything medical like sleep apnoea as a cause. They will be able to help you in your journey to better sleep for your child.

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