Sleep Anxiety: How to Help Your Kiddos When the Struggle is Real

sleep anxiety

Sleep anxiety and our kiddos can be exhausting. If you’ve been through it, there have been tears and no sleeping for both you and your child.

No sleep for mom means an even more worn-out momma. Nobody, and I mean nobody, needs that!

I’ve been there and still visit from time to time. I have learned some tips and tricks that we use that might help you in your struggle.

sleep anxiety

Sleep Anxiety Tip #1: Be Consistent

Might feel like a weird place to start but if you don’t have a consistent message with them and stick to your approach you develop, kiddos sense holes in what you are telling them and will wiggle right on through.

Uh, thanks for the tip but what does that mean?! If you say that bedtime is 9 pm but you don’t start the motion of getting them there at the same time every night, you have created a hole for them. They will push the wiggle room and stay away from getting ready.

Before you know it, it’s 9:30. Everyone’s up and you’re pulling you’re hair out yelling at them, wondering what on God’s green earth did you do to deserve children that don’t listen to you. (Don’t kid yourself because part of this will be due to the curse your own mother put on you for causing her to have evening cocktails for survival.)

So, read through all of the tips, pick what is going to work for you and stick with it for the love of everything that’s holy. Don’t give into the “one more show,” one more book,” “one more glass of water” or “five more kisses.” They may seem like sweet things but they are evil plots setting your kiddos sleep and yours up for disaster.

Oh, you’re also going to have to go tough love on the whole getting up after you have put them to bed. Listen to what they say and then kindly say they need to go back to bed and try to sleep again. Rinse and repeat.

sleep anxiety

Sleep Anxiety Tip #2: Cut-Off Time for Screens

Screens are the enemy of sleep because they mess with our ability to produce a hormone, melatonin, which naturally helps us nod off. I’m sure you’re already familiar with some of the amped up excitement that your kiddos have when playing with them.

I’m guessing you wouldn’t down a Rock Star before snuggling up for the night. Help your kiddos out and make a no screens policy after a certain time.

Try making it an hour before bed. This is enough time for them to get all prepped for the next steps. If they get ready slower or quicker, just adjust the cut-off time to fit.

sleep anxiety

Sleep Anxiety Tip #3: Dedicated Reading Time

Reading a book helps your body wind down, reducing the amount of the steroid-like hormone, cortisol, in your body.

Getting into the habit of reading before bed is great for our kids regardless of whether or not they have problems sleeping. Supporting this activity helps improve their vocabulary by showing them words they might not be seeing or hearing otherwise.

Encourage them to use the mental images they are creating while reading to go back through the parts of the story they just read with their eyes closed. Tell them when they’re finished to create their own version of the story with a twist with eyes closed. Think of this as a more engaging version of counting sheep.

sleep anxiety

Sleep Anxiety Tip #4: Set a Sleep Time Mood

Nature Sounds or Talk Radio

Not kidding you that my kiddo with anxiety has the station number of the talk radio they listens to on a post-it. If the station gets changed outside of bedtime, it can quickly be put back. The cadence of people talking somewhat gently at night works for them.

Having nature sounds in the background is another one that does the trick. A waterfall or trickling brook sends him off to la-la-land when talk radio isn’t getting it done.

sleep anxiety

Essential Oil and Diffuser

No matter if you are on the essential oil bandwagon or not, you can get behind using lavender and a diffuser if it’s going to help everyone sleep!

The touted benefits of lavender are improving sleep, lessening anxiety and emotional stress. This is powerful to share with your child even if you don’t feel it really works. Those words get into their head and start some positive thinking about how they can sleep if that lavender is diffusing in their room.

The diffuser is all up to you on style and cost but due to their popularity, they are everywhere. We use this one for both of our bigs, have had them for over a year with no problems and our kids love the lights.

Sleep Anxiety Tip #5: Bedtime Routine

Anxiety in any situation is lessened when you have a routine that you can rely on. Think about what bedtime looks like in your house right now and what you can change to establish a routine.

We eat dinner. (The time for our meals are scattered because of life.) Next is taking turns in the shower followed by a dessert of some sort. After that, brushing teeth and settling into reading time. Setting alarms for school and tucking into bed are our last steps.

If you’ve established a routine and you know something is going to throw it off, have the discussion with your kiddo before you get to that time of night. Be calm and say that “things are going to change tonight because of x, y and z but here’s the new routine we’ll go through.” Reassure them that the shift is temporary and no biggie because some of the elements are staying the same.

sleep anxiety

*Bonus Travel Advice*

Sharing a mom fail here! This summer I had a huge miss when we went to visit family in Colorado and gave no thought to bedtime and the routines we keep.

Kids were up late playing with cousins and the dreaded three’s-a-crowd had already been causing problems all day.

My big with anxiety was unable to sleep because of already feeling left out and we had not planned for anything we use at home to help them sleep.

  1. No regular routine or discussion about how it was changing.
  2. No talk radio or nature sounds to give background noise.
  3. No diffuser and lavender oil.

Nobody was  sleeping until lightning struck my mom brain at about 3 in the morning. I grabbed the iPad. (Wait for the reminder that “You said no screens before bed!”)

I made sure we had a connection to WiFi to save data and pulled up the Amazon Prime Video app. I searched for nature sounds and picked a continuously playing jungle sounds video. I placed it face down on the floor next to their bed and thank God they were finally was able to sleep!!!!

Learn from my big miss. Think about the routine and easy things to pack that bring the calm and inviting sleep techniques with you.

Interested in Learning More About…

Hearing the tip about reading before bed was awful because you have a struggling reader at home? Check out Struggling Readers in Your Home and How To Help.

Having problems with your kids not talking to you about what’s going on in their lives? Possibly you’re afraid they will start to someday? How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You Everyday will give you a place to start!

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