Why might the child be anxious during the night?
There are many reasons a child could be anxious throughout the night, and it can be different for each child.
- In an 8– 12-month-old baby (although this age range can vary), it is common for the child to experience "separation anxiety", where the baby may become anxious if left alone (Nemours Foundation, 2006).
- The child may be afraid of the dark, or may not feel relaxed in their sleeping environment.
- They may feel anxious about an event that occurred or is going to occur during the day
- Some children feel worried if they are sleeping in a new environment. This is especially common in children with Autism.
- If a child experiences nightmares, they may worry about falling asleep.
Does anything need to be done?
It is always important to enforce good sleep habits from an early age to help ensure that these carry through, as the child gets older. For example, an infant who will not sleep alone may not grow out of this habit if it is not dealt with in early infancy.
Tips to help your child relax
Try to make sure the child feels comfortable in his/ her own bedroom
- Do not use the bedroom as an area of punishment
- If the child is afraid of the dark, try using a small nightlight, ensuring it is not too bright. Too much light may decrease the levels of the sleep hormone, melatonin, in the body, which could result in the child being more awake. Lava lamps or baby light shows might also be of use.
- Try using some non-stimulating toys such as a teddy, comforter or an item the child is familiar with.
- If going away, make sure you take some familiar items with you to help the child adjust
- Sometimes a recording of a parent’s voice, an item of clothing or certain scent belonging to a parent can help reassure the child.
Other techniques include:
Meditation and relaxing music can often help to soothe the child and aid sleep.
Lavender oil can sometimes help to relax, but please seek expert advice before using this, or any other aromatherapy oils.
Try to ensure that you remain calm at times in which the child is afraid. If you appear anxious then the child may feel anxious too.
With some babies, it may be necessary to keep the child’s bedroom door open so they can hear the parent/carer is close by (Nemours Foundation, 2006).
Massage can sometimes be effective to help relax the child.
Try talking and sympathising with the child if there is something that he/she is afraid of (Stores, 2001).
Nemours Foundation 1995-2006, Sleep and Your 8- 12-Month-Old, Retrieved 2nd March 2006, from http://kidshealth.org
Stores, G. 2001, A Clinical Guide to Sleep Disorders in Children and adolescents. Published by The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, UK