From a fear of the dark to believing there’s a monster under their bed, many children experience night fears at some point in their lives. These can be down to several factors, from a simple fear of the unknown, to thoughts inspired by something they have seen, or even a cry for attention. Follow our guide below and banish the bedroom monsters forever!
Your child’s fears may seem illogical, they may even sound funny, but it’s important to take them seriously. Although some children go on to have sleep disorders as adults, a child’s fear of the dark is usually age-appropriate and simply a part of growing up. Listen and try to find the source of their fear.
Introduce relaxation methods
The hour before bedtime should form part of a winding down process. Televisions, tablets and other electronic devices can not only stimulate but the blue light they create reacts against melatonin formation – the hormone that makes us sleepy. Try to make the hour before lights-out as relaxing as possible. Reading a bedtime story together can help, or listening to music. Some children may find some basic meditation of use – simply closing their eyes and having you imagine a peaceful or fun setting may allow their mind to drift away from their fears.
It may be worth trying to show your child that darkness is nothing to be afraid of by introducing games during the hours of daylight. This can be as simple as drawing the curtains in their bedroom and playing under torchlight. Being close by you’ll be able to address any fears as they happen, from strange noises to shadows on the wall. Feeling safe in this setting, your child may even come to see that darkness can be fun!
Encourage your child to stay in bed
If your child gets out of bed every time they get scared, this can easily become a habit and make bedtimes difficult for the whole family. It is important to take your child back to bed and focus on overcoming the issues that are keeping them awake, rather than focusing on getting a good night’s sleep at all costs. Although difficult, react as calmly as possible and try to remember that for most children, night fears are a short and passing phase.
Try a night light
If a night light keeps your child awake then it’s unlikely to be the solution for you, but a low light in their room or the upstairs hallway can often provide all the reassurance they need.
Try a reward system
Offering praise to your child for a full night’s sleep in their own bed can work in some cases. This may involve a day-by-day star system, with a treat if they manage to get through the whole week. Use a reward system sparingly as a child may quickly learn how to turn it to their advantage!
You’ve tried all of the above and still feel you’re getting nowhere. Don’t give up! Going a few days or weeks without proper sleep may make you feel like it’s the end of the world, but it’s often about finding what’s right for your child.
Speak to other parents and swap ideas around, as you won’t be alone. Experiment with bedtimes – is your child going to bed too early, or too late? Do they sleep better at weekends? Do the seasons seem to have an impact? Is their bedroom too hot or too cold? Finding answers to such questions and employing different methods should eventually bring back happier bedtimes.