Sleep problems are not confined to young children and worries about the dark or sleeping alone can continue well into primary and even secondary school. Getting enough exercise, turning off screens and having a routine can all be helpful. You might also like to consider relaxation CDs or Apps (see below)
For many young people sleep difficulties are closely related to anxiety. It’s at bedtime, when there are no other distractions, that those worries really surface. If that starts to become a pattern, parents sometimes find it helpful to set aside some time at bedtime to talk over worries. It’s helpful to set a time limit e.g. having 10 minutes every evening. Some children use worry dolls or might write down their worries and then put them in a box or scrunch them up and throw them away (see top tips below)
For older children, you could try discussing choices in terms of tackling worries and then look at the pros and cons of each choice (e.g. I could do nothing, I could ask my friend what he thinks, I could ask the teacher to put me in a different group). This can help your child feel more in control. A lot of the resources in the anxiety section are really helpful here because addressing the worries is likely to lead to better sleep.
- Healthy sleep tips for children on this NHS site
- Can’t Sleep, Won’t Sleep? Five tips to get your child’s sleep back on track
- Using worry time and other techniques to tackle anxiety
- Advice on sleep for different age groups
- A useful overview of things that might cause poor sleep by YoungMInds with a link to their Parent’s and Young People’s Helplines
- How can I get my child to sleep in their own bed? This fading technique can be helpful for younger children
- My child has night terrors or nightmares How to recognise a night terror compared to a nightmare and what you can do to help. Night terrors are commonest from about 3-8 years and most children grow out of them. Although upsetting to witness, children don’t remember them and they are not usually a sign of underlying anxiety. Recurrent nightmares are often remembered and may sometimes arise from a traumatic event.
- National Sleep Helpline– Powered by The Sleep Charity. Helpful advice for falling asleep and anxiety surrounding sleep plus lots of tips for parents of children over 12 months.
- Enchanted Meditations for Kids by Christiane Kerr (CD/audiobook) is one of a series of CDs recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatry
- Neon the Ninja Activity Book for Children Who Struggle with Sleep and Nightmares by Dr. Karen Treisman. A lovely book written by a clinical psychologist.
- What to Do When you Dread Your Bed- a Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Problems with Sleep by Dawn Huebner. Highly recommended by parents of children from ages 6 to 11yrs
- Headspace is a popular meditation App – the first few sessions are free so you can see if you like it and it has special sections on meditation for sleep and a section for children, although you have to subscribe for these.
- Calm is an App which has sleep stories for children and grown-ups.