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Are You A Parent? This Is How You Can Help Your Kid Overcome Bedtime Anxiety

Experts emphasise the importance of consistent bedtime routines and avoiding habits like screen time before bed.

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As parents tuck their little ones into bed each night, many are all too familiar with the challenges of bedtime routines. When Kelceymarie Warner noticed her daughter’s bedtime anxiety at the tender age of 6, she knew something had to change.

"Her body would be a little more tense, and she would hyperventilate if you pushed the subject too soon, she really needed to be slowly moved into the cycle," Warner recounted, as reported by CNN

Warner, a mother of four young daughters, believes in the power of a structured bedtime routine. However, when faced with her daughter's anxiety, she had to adapt. 

Warner’s experience is not uncommon among parents. Many struggle nightly to ease their young children into bedtime. A recent national poll conducted by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital sheds light on these challenges, revealing that 1 in 4 parents report their child has trouble falling asleep due to anxiety or worry. Additionally, over a third of parents say their child frequently wakes up upset or crying during the night.

Sarah Clark, co-director of the Mott poll, explains that children aged 1 to 6 often experience anxieties that manifest at bedtime. "They’re scared of the dark, or as kids develop and their imagination develops … now they’re scared of monsters," she notes. These fears, though typical, can disrupt sleep patterns.

To address such challenges, Warner adjusted her bedtime routine, incorporating activities like herbal tea, bedtime stories, and affirmations. Although it initially took up to an hour, Warner’s perseverance paid off. "Now, a little over a year later, her daughter is able to go through some parts of the routine on her own, and is able to better self-soothe," Warner shared, reflecting on her journey.

Consistency is key, according to Clark. Over 90% of parents with successful bedtime routines credit consistency for their children’s improved sleep habits. However, Clark warns against habits like allowing children to fall asleep in parents’ beds or using screens before bed, which can disrupt sleep patterns.

Dr. Lauren Hartstein, an expert in paediatric sleep, advises parents to limit media use before bedtime and ensure a calming environment with dim lighting. Her research underscores the sensitivity of young children to light, which can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone crucial for sleep regulation.

Despite these challenges, Clark expressed concern over the increasing trend of parents giving melatonin to young children. The poll found that 1 in 5 parents resort to melatonin supplements, despite recommendations against it for children under 3 years old. "What you’re teaching them is that if they can’t sleep, they should just take medication," Hartstein cautioned, emphasising the importance of developing healthy sleep habits.

For parents like Warner, addressing bedtime anxiety involves patience and a tailored approach. "It’s about finding what works best for your child," Warner advises fellow parents. By understanding their child’s anxieties and establishing a soothing routine, parents can help ensure a peaceful night’s rest for their little ones.