Sleep and Anxiety. 9 ways to manage the “worry monsters” so everyone has a good nights sleep.

Are worries keeping your child from sleeping? Place2be conducted a survey Children and young people who usually get less than the recommended 9 hours sleep on a school night are more likely to feel that worries get in the way of school work (32% vs 22%), according to a survey of over 1,100 10-11 year-olds and 13-15 year-olds. They found:
More than half (56%) of children and young people say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves – and those getting less sleep are less able to cope with worries, saying they often don’t know what to do when they’re worried (22% vs 18%), and once they start worrying, they cannot stop (36% vs 28%).

What are Common Problems at nighttime

1.Nighttime fears

Fears and worries are very common at night. It is normal for children to feel scared about monsters, ghosts, the dark, noises and intruders. Before the age of six children struggle to distinguish between fact and fantasy. These fears are very real to them. Ensure that you talk to them and proove there is no monster in the wardrobe. For more on >>Nighttime fears<<

2. Separation Anxiety

Sleep is a very strange phenomenon. In western society, children sleep in isolation. This means they are away from us for a very long time. Sometimes it not only our children who can be anxious, but you can also be too. You may fear something may happen to our child during sleep. Reflect on how bedtimes and separations were negotiated in your childhood. Was there death or accident in the family? Is this affecting the way you let go at night? Click here for more on>> Separation Anxiety<<

3. Not being able to go into to sleep state

Many children start to worry prior to bedtime, they often feel that they will not be able to “let go” into sleep. They are fearful they will have no sleep at all. In addition, there are fears of waking in the night and not being able to return to sleep. Your child may be struggling to self soothe, (this is your child’s capacity to calm themselves) Don’t forget that they developing this capacity, this often why you have to rock, stroke or sit with them. For more on self-soothing, click here > >Helping your child Self Soothe<<

4. Busy lives and limited Parental presence

We all lead very busy lives. Isn’t it hard to find that close and connected time just for you and them? Children will seek attention at any time and that maybe during the night. Ensure that you give them that special time during the day even if it is for just 10 minutes. This will enable secure attachments.

5. Your child is suffering from daytime anxiety

Gwen Dewar from Parenting Science notes that:
“Children who suffer from daytime anxieties—about school, separation from parents, or other concerns—are more likely to fear the dark and fear sleeping alone (Gregory and Eley 2005). If you help your child with daytime worries then it is likely that their sleep will improve. Attend my workshop to help you manage your child’s worries, >> Stop the Worry Cycle>>

Generalised anxiety
I am not going to be able to sleep, my mind is really full!

9 Ways to help everyone to have a good nights sleep

1.Try to refrain from “crying it out”

Children need help in managing their fears. I’ve written a lot about a child’s developing brain and how they are learning self-control and self regulation If your child is worried, leaving them alone with ” the worry” will escalate the feelings of being unsafe.

2. Teach your child to relax and calm

There are many ways you can help your child to calm. All children whatever their age will benefit from a massage. Massage activates our calm chemical Oxytocin. Make massage this part of your bedtime routine. For toddlers sing a lullaby, record one in your voice and leave it to play. Help your children to learn how to breathe by blowing bubbles. For older children, mindfulness and relaxation will help.

Blow out and breathe for calm

3. Talk to them that is normal to be scared of the dark, ghosts etc

Children often feel that they are the only ones feeling scared. Normalise it, talk to them how common it is for children to feel like this and prove there is no monster in the closet.

4. Teach self talk: Help them to manage ” the worry monster”

Help them to name it as the worry monster being boss and then help them to think of images that make them feel in control, safe and calm. You can do this using my safe place exercise here or create one yourself.

5. Have a consistent Bedtime routine

It does not need to be more than 35 minutes, bath, teeth, story, hugs. Generally children who are worried, delay this. Be patient and go gently. Seek help if you need a therapist to enable this process.

6. Model calmness

Children do pick up on our fears, so try to keep calm. If your child tells you they are scared. You could respond by saying that many children are scared at night but you know they are safe. Give them a lovely, soft toy or something of yours to cuddle in the night.

7. Give them a nightlight

Find a light on a dimmer so you can gently turn it down. Remember light soft Amber/red tones are better than lights with a blue hue which will keep him awake.

Sleep and Anxiety. 9 ways to manage the “worry monsters” so everyone has a good nights sleep.

8. Tend to Nightmares quickly

If your child is suffering from nightmares, respond and reassure quickly. Dont leave them alone to work it out for themselves. For more on how to manage nightmares here>> nightmares and night terrors<<

9. Adjust their sleep routine

Are they getting enough sleep? Check below, however, if your child is struggling to go into the sleep state initially you may have to put bedtime back. It’s an awful feeling to be awake for an hour ” worrying”

Sleep and Anxiety. 9 ways to manage the “worry monsters” so everyone has a good nights sleep.

I hope this helps you all, if you are struggling and need help with your child anxiety or book a sleep consulation, contact me for a consultation or attend my Parent workshop on understanding and managing anxiety.