Sleep problems can appear at any point through childhood and the teen years. The sudden fear of sleep may stem from a direct cause or just seem to appear without prompting. Either way, children and teens are often ill equipped to deal with the problem on their own. Luckily, you can help them find the main cause and learn how to fall asleep when scared to restore nighttime peace in the house. Here’s what you need to know to help your child deal with a fear of sleep.
Causes Of Childhood Sleeplessness
Children and teens face a lot of stressors in life that they are not prepared to handle on their own. Your child may not even realize the problems are weighing heavily on his or her mind until the fear of going to sleep occurs. Even then, without some troubleshooting, it can be difficult to figure out the main cause.
Being afraid to go to sleep in this population often stems from:
If the cause is emotional trauma, such as from an illness or injury of a loved one, you might need to receive help from a therapist who can help your child learn how to cope. Anxiety-related issues, on the other hand, often stem from school performance or social difficulties. Your child may need to be coaxed to inform you about these problems, especially if the anxiety stems from bullying. If your child recently suffered from a serious illness or injury, it may have been difficult to sleep while experiencing pain or discomfort. After recovering, many patients notice their sleep patterns feel off for an extended period of time.
Fear is a big reason kids find it difficult to get some rest. Many kids battle against their fears cropping up as they’re trying to get some rest at the end of the night. The fear of sleeping may stem from worries about their family, thoughts on mortality or recurrent nightmares concerning any of the above issues. Certain foods can also cause kids to have nightmares, which end up building on each other to cause frequent feelings of being scared of falling asleep.
Deeper Exploration of Sleep Phobia
Hypnophobia, also known as somniphobia, is an ongoing fear of falling and staying asleep. This fear is more difficult to deal with as its trigger is frequently unknown or changes from day to day or week to week. Your child may start to have a panic attack as the bedtime hour creeps up. The panic attack could include breathing difficulties, hot flushes and a growing feeling of dread.
The dread, or fear, may seem to take over your child’s rational thinking process. No matter of persuading or discussion will end these overwhelming feelings plaguing your child. Instead, you must have your child wait out the cause and allow the anxiety to dissipate on its own. If the phobia of sleep continues each night, consider hiring a therapist to help you and your child eliminate the phobia altogether.
Identifying The Main Cause
Your child may be reluctant to share the main cause of feeling scared to fall asleep with you at first. Many kids feel embarrassed by how they’re feeling, especially if they do not think it’s normal to have those thoughts and worries. You can try to help your kid open up by sharing difficulties you experienced at their age, including a fear of nightmares and fear of not sleeping. Do not go too far into detail with the difficulties as it could cause new fears to develop. Instead, share a single story and then ask your child to do the same.
Many kids will skirt around the issue at first to see if you’ll take the initial answer at face value. Do not discard or ignore these initial problems, however, each issue may contribute to your child’s phobia of sleeping, so it makes sense to solve them all. Keep trying to find the main source of your child feeling afraid to fall asleep by talking it out each night. You can also talk to your child’s teacher, counselor, babysitter or other family members to troubleshoot the problem privately, but without your child’s input.
Helping Your Child Face Problem Head On
Once you figure out the main cause of your child feeling afraid to sleep, attempt to solve the problem outright. You can teach your child coping methods that reduce or eliminate worry well before heading to bed. You can also use distraction techniques to keep your child’s mind occupied until sleep arrives. Children respond well to listening to soothing music or a white noise system to stop feeling afraid of sleeping. Allow your child to provide you with feedback to see what’s keeping him or her from feeling scared of sleeping.
Solutions To Ongoing Sleeplessness
If your child continues feeling scared to sleep, keep searching for the cause while finding solutions for the problems that do come to light. You can try to give your child a melatonin supplements that encourages restful sleep if your pediatrician authorizes that treatment. You can also try a few sessions of hypno sleep to eliminate underlying fears that your child cannot identify.
If your child just has a fear of falling asleep, consider sitting at the side of the bed and providing gentle pats or a soft back massage to help your child relax and forget about being scared. Most kids eventually grow out of sleep issues as their mind matures to better process the information around them. You can help facilitate this process by eliminating exposure to bad news on the television, in magazines or printed in the local paper. Always be sensitive to your child’s needs when it comes to processing bad news from the community, school or family.
Upon reaching the teen years, your child’s doctor can take over the treatment process for a fear of going to bed. Your teen may need a sleep study performed to rule out medical problems that cause sleep phobia and related issues. Attending all of your child’s appointments will keep you informed while you chase down the cause and find good solutions for the fear of falling asleep.