It’s not just babies that can keep you up into the late hours of the night, but school-aged young ones can, too. This may leave you wondering: why is my child is scared of sleeping alone, especially if they haven’t had issues before? According to ChildrensMD, between 20% and 30% of children struggle to sleep through the night. While this could be brushed off as just another childhood fear they’ll grow out of, sleep anxiety can reveal hidden issues you’ll want to address sooner rather than later.
Put yourself in their shoes — alone in the dark, with no company other than their overactive brain. Whether it’s a hectic bedtime routine or a spooky movie they’ve seen, those emotions of fear and excitement can carry over into their nighttime hours, barring them from sleep. Big imaginations and a fear of the dark can combine into a child’s fear of sleeping alone. Young ones often don’t know any better, nor do they understand their overactive imagination is just that — an imagination.
“It’s not their bed, or the house, or the dolls–it’s what their mind, specifically their ‘worry brain,’ is telling them about those things that are making them so frightened,” Dr. Tamar Chansky writes in Psychology Today.
How to Help Your Child Sleep Alone
Depending on the issues you’re finding with your kid not being able to sleep alone, there are different steps you can take to help them overcome their fears.
For some children, their inability to sleep through the night isn’t due to fear itself, but surrounding factors. Kids can be wound up in the hours leading up to bedtime, from things such as consuming high-sugar foods or spending hours glued to their tablet or TV screens. Consider changing your child’s nighttime routine to have them sleep-ready:
- Cut out screen-time around bedtime. As kids are winding down for the night, they tend to tune in to their tablets to watch a video or two. Avoid doing this one to two hours before bedtime because the blue light from screens inhibits the body’s natural melatonin release.
- Create a solid bedtime hour. A steady routine can help your child, and their body clock, recognize when it’s really bedtime.
- Easy on the fluids. If your child is chugging down glasses of water before laying down, the likelihood of them getting up in the middle of the night is high.
Paired with these changes, talk your child through any of their worries to help them start sleeping alone. If their biggest fear is what could be lurking in the dark, for example, get them a nightlight to ease their worries.
Instead of dismissing your child’s worry as a silly fear, Chansky advises parents address it directly by “fact-checking” their worries. Brushing fears under the rug isn’t helpful. Instead, have your child list fears and worries and go through them one by one together.