How to Help Your Anxious Child Get to Sleep

While bedtime is a welcome time for most adults, it can actually be the opposite for your anxious child. In fact, up to 30% of school-aged children have trouble getting to and staying asleep at night, with anxiety as one of the most common things keeping them awake.

Making matters even worse are the side effects of insufficient sleep. Without enough shuteye, children can become irritable, hyperactive and have a tough time controlling their emotions – compounding anxiety even further.

Bedtime Routine for Anxious Children

A regular bedtime routine can work wonders for helping anxious children get the sleep they need. Establish a bedtime ritual that involves getting prepped for sleep as well as setting the mood and ambiance for the slumber to come.

Some bedtime routine ideas to consider include:

Set a consistent bedtime. Have the entire family follow a regular bedtime and wake-up time throughout the week. While the regular sleep schedule can be relaxed a bit on weekend or when you’re on vacation, it should be consistently upheld during normal work and school weeks.

Complete all tasks prior to bedtime. These can include things like brushing teeth, putting on pajamas and picking out a favorite stuffed animal for company during the night. Baths are another option, and they’re also good for soothing and calming at the end of the day.

Get your child’s input. Ask your child what helps him or her relax, and then include reasonable requests in the ritual. Perhaps they like bedtime stories, snuggle time with mom and dad, or listening to soothing music. Unreasonable requests would include things like vigorous activity, which can keep your child awake, or eating a big bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Create a soothing environment. The best bedrooms for sleep are quiet, dark and cool. A small nightlight is OK if it makes your child more comfortable. You can also leave the hall light on and the bedroom door slightly open if needed.

Additional Bedtime Tips for Anxious Children

Allow quiet activity. Just because your children go to bed, however, doesn’t mean they’ll automatically go to sleep. If your child is old enough, allow him or her to self-regulate their bedtime. Once in bed, allow them to read or engage in another quiet activity until they’re tired enough to sleep.

Put a curfew on digital devices. The blue light emitted from digital device screens is known for keeping folks awake. Try to avoid all digital devices for one to two hours before bedtime for best results.

Give away the worries. If worry is keeping your anxious child awake at night, teach him or her to give them away before bedtime. You can write down your child’s worries on a piece of paper, which can be put in a special “Worry Box.” Your child can also give worries to a stuffed animal, doll or other inanimate object that can do the worrying for them.

Try a combination of any or all of the tips, or create new habits and practices, until you land on an ideal routine that helps your anxious child fall and stay asleep.