When Worries Affect Your Child’s Sleep

No matter how hard we try as parents to insulate our children from the worries of the wider world, the events of the last few years can’t help but slip through to our little ones. These fears and worries, even if they seem silly to adults, can keep your child from a recuperative night’s rest. 

Here, we look at some ways to help your child through these issues and get them back to restful sleep.

Disturbed Sleep and Health Impacts

A recent study revealed that children are one of the groups that took the biggest hit in their sleep quality since the pandemic era started. More children globally are having issues getting to sleep, experiencing nighttime wakings and seeking reassurance, and even nightmares.

You try to insulate your children from the worries of the wider world, but sometimes this can have the opposite effect. Children are young, but they aren’t unaware. They can feel when there are changes in their and their family’s lives. Sometimes it’s better to address this head-on in simple, positive, affirming, and age-appropriate ways than hope you can ignore the issue and present a front to the child.

It’s common for these nascent worries to surface at bedtime when the day is over and they have nothing to distract their young minds. Simply being young does not leave a child immune to overthinking, fears both logical and illogical, worries about upcoming new experiences, bereavements or loss, and familial issues.

Establishing a Healthy Bedtime

As parents, it’s common to get frustrated with a child who resists going to bed or appears over and over through the night for seemingly trivial reasons like needing to use the bathroom, being hungry, or needing some water. It’s easy to become impatient with these demands, but this battle of wills can often end up having the opposite effect, increasing everyone’s stress and worry levels.

Instead, try to head off these issues by establishing a strong bedtime routine. Toys and distractions should be tidied away. As the blue light emitted by electronic devices can interrupt the natural sleep cycle, it’s a good idea to power these down about an hour before bed.

If you’re battling with an anxious child, building some ‘talk time’ into the routine is smart. It can be as short as 10-15 minutes of one-on-one time with the child, free of other distractions. Give them the space to discuss their worries and fears. If they have nothing they want to discuss, direct them to think of three positive things about their day. This can even be an introduction to the idea of journaling.

You can expand this idea further by bringing some simple mindfulness activities to the table. This helps the child recenter themselves in the now, instead of in their worries. You can extend this concept to an anxious child by looking into age-appropriate sleep aids. One well-known style is a ‘sleep companion’, a friendly buddy created to help the little one learn simple self-soothing techniques to get back to sleep if they wake during the night. Moreover, sleep companions can give them the toolkit needed for independent emotional regulation. Additionally, if you’re having issues with your little one needing you to be there to fall asleep, as a safety blanket of sorts, you can help them learn greater independence with the security of their new little buddy.

However you build your bedtime routine, make sure it’s at a consistent time, and with consistent steps. This helps teach the child’s body to prepare for sleep once the routine begins, establishing a healthier relationship between sleep and bedtime.

Use Relaxation Cues

Ensure all pre-bedtime activities are at a restful, soothing pace and designed to encourage relaxation like the following:

  • A quick, warm bath without stimulating playtime that goes straight to bed, not back into the exciting family room
  • Pre-dimmed lights that are soothing, instead of stimulating for the brain and help boost melatonin production
  • A relaxing story to tuck them in with, and a cool (not cold) bedroom to help promote sleepiness

Furthermore, make sure you are setting them up for sleep time success in their daily routine. A consistent wake time, limited late afternoon naps, a filling meal that’s neither too early nor too late, and a day packed with natural sunshine and activities help encourage better sleep and a healthier mindset towards bedtime.

Dealing with childhood worries late at night as you just want to rest yourself can be a tension trigger-point for many families. Helping your child to work through these anxieties themselves in a positive, productive manner, instead of allowing bedtime to become a battleground that amplifies these concerns, teaches them valuable lessons for the future, and creates a restful, peaceful bedtime routine.


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