BEDTIME FEARS AND ANXIETIES IN TODDLERS
Around 2 years of age your toddler can being to go through a sleep regressions which can at times, be contributed to development of bedtime fears and an increase in separation anxiety, awareness of their surroundings and distinguishing what is imagination and what is factual. It is an age where we can see a perfect little sleeper move form a cot to a big bed too! A great achievement, however can also lead to a change in surroundings and environment, unfamiliarity and a feeling of change and adaption, which can leave them wanting more reassurance or parental presence. It can lead to the excuse list...”i want a drink of water, I need to go to the toilet, I want one more kiss or cuddle, can I please read another book, mummy, can you please lay with me til i fall asleep”, and so on. It important to recognise these excuses or demands and look at the reason behind them. Is it anxiety or fear based? ✖️Having a good bedtime routine does help, incorporating a book, toilet trip, drink and kisses and cuddles, filling your child’s emotional tank BEFORE they go to bed, will reduce the need for them getting up and out of bed continuously and making demands, causing them to be common overtired and fight sleep more! Taking the 15-20 minutes before bedtime can save you hours overnight! ✖️Bedtime fears can also be driven by nightmares. Many of these are triggered by screen time before bed. Firstly, the stimulation and screen time your child’s brain receives before bed leads to a shut off melatonin - so having a time of shutting off devices is a good option. You may do dinner, TV off, baths and books then winding down! Also, what is it they are watching? Children of this age have trouble distinguishing what is fact or fiction - their brains are developing and have a better understanding of characters, scenes or emotions on a screen that they can partially decipher, but not wholly understand the background or storyline of a specific movie or film. ✖️It’s important to acknowledge their fear. If they are telling you about it, they are trusting you with it. Don’t laugh, tell them they are being silly or fob it off. They are coming to you with a legitimate reason for being worried, scared or fearful! An imaginary fear (ghosts, monsters, aliens or other items that are usually seen on film) are more difficult to resolve then say real life fears of spiders and snakes - as you can show them that there are no spiders or snakes isn’t he room! Try not to reiterate a ‘search’ for the monsters, as it is only suggesting that these in fact exist, and you are checking to make sure they aren’t around! ✖️Telling the child they are safe, they are protected and mum or dad are always here to talk will help you through. Fear is a natural emotion hat comes up at many different stages of life. If they have a comfort item that helps them, encourage this. ✖️Having a night light can help significantly for children with a fear of the dark. They feel safer and secure when they can see or have a sense of control over their surroundings. Either a night light isn’t he room or in a PowerPoint in the hallway can help. You want to make sure it is dim, nothing over 7 watts, and that it isn’t casting shadows which could taunt your child’s imagination more! A little salt lamp in the room is a good idea, the amber/dim red light emits a soft and calming tone for the room. Any other colours can affect your child’s melatonin production.
If you have seen a breakdown in your toddlers sleep, and are concerned about bedtime fears or anxieties - you can try out check in option which can be found in our sleep guides from 2-4 years.