Addressing bedtime worries, fears and nightmares

by User Not Found | Oct 14, 2015

Does your child go out like a light when it’s bedtime, or do you struggle to get them under the sheets?

Sleepy-girlMany parents can relate to the hours it can take and perhaps the stress involved, in getting their children to finally dose off at night. 

But it doesn’t have to be so hard. You can change their bedtime habits, with some creativity.

Children may be scared of going to sleep for many different reasons, and understanding ‘why,’ will help you decide the best bedtime strategies to address their bedtime reluctance.

Try to see things from your child’s perspective and get to know your child by observing them and looking for patterns in their behaviour. You’ll be able to pick up if your child is stressed, anxious, traumatised or facing difficulties at school, which may help you understand why bedtime worries and fears are happening.

Essentially children need to feel safe and empowered about going to bed in their room alone without dealing with any bad dreams or nightmares.

Bad dreams are not however, always a sign of an emotional disturbance. But they are frightening to children and can disrupt sleep and create real fear.

So what can you do?

Tips on addressing bedtime worries

Developing coping strategies in your child to help them deal with bad dreams requires patience, calm, and careful thought. Learning these skills and strategies too will help children develop resilience and problem solving, and may have cross-over benefits in other areas of their lives.

Children are also very creative and imaginative and together with your child you can come up with more solutions in dealing with bad dreams.

Some more specific strategies for children who are particularly anxious or fearful may include:

  • Encouraging a child to visualise something pleasant before bed. This could be a good time they recently had, a sport or activity they love to do, or even something fun, magical or imaginative. It will help the child fall asleep in a better frame of mind.
  • Having a night light and offering to leave the door open a little. Hearing familiar family noises and voices may be soothing.
  • Encouraging children to self sooth, and talking about ways to do this during daytime hours, so that a plan and agreement has been reached. Think about what your child will respond to, and come up with some creative ideas. Taking to bed a piece of clothing that belongs to mum or dad, like a jacket, scarf or other item, may be soothing for some children. Listening to quiet music may also be helpful. Putting a warm hot water bottle in their bed a little before bedtime and removing it later might help soothe a child as well.

Tips on dealing with a child's bad dreams

If your child is going through a period of experiencing bad dreams or nightmares then some additional strategies may be required.

Bad dreams may be a reflection of stress or anxiety a child is experiencing in their life. This can be from school, social or family life such as a divorce or separation, bullying, or even something traumatic or distressing that a child has experienced.

Some helpful strategies to address bad dreams and nightmares may include:

  • Reassuring talks with your child, kisses, cuddles and time spent talking, laughing and having fun. These are all great ways to calm children who can be stressed and anxious about nightmares or bad dreams.
  • Taking their concerns seriously but not creating more anxiety for them. What seems trivial and unimportant to adults may be very fearful to children. Showing a patient, calm interest in your child and their experience is a good approach.

Ensuring your child's bedroom is a friendly, warm and inviting place for them to sleep. Reassure them that you are close by and that they can call you if needed. But also encourage them to be brave and to tell you about their bravery the next day.


Leave a comment
  1. david mwangi kageche | Nov 30, 2015
    we are happy for the care and concern you have for our children.
  2. shannon | Nov 26, 2015
    Nice article thanks a lot 
  3. Sheryl | Oct 19, 2015
    Love this article. Thanks ASG!

    Leave a comment