In this week’s episode of the My Sleeping Baby podcast, I’m giving you my top strategies on how to address your little one’s fears around bedtime so that they can feel comfortable and secure going to sleep peacefully for the night. Have a listen!
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Hey there, you’re listening to the My Sleeping Baby podcast, which is all about baby and child sleep. I’m so excited to teach you how you can get your little ones sleeping so that you can sleep too and enjoy parenthood to its fullest. I’m Eva Klein, your resident’s sleep expert, mom of three, founder of the Sleep Bible online coaching program, and lover of all things sleep and motherhood. If you’re looking for tangible solutions for your little one sleep woes or you simply want to learn more, this podcast is for you. For more information, check out mysleepingbaby.com and you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @mysleepingbaby.
All right, welcome back everyone. Before we dive in and talk all about bedtime fears and the scaries amongst our toddlers and preschoolers, I wanna quickly read out a wonderful review that I got from a past client named Lucy, and she says, I cannot thank Eva enough, wonderful service, amazing resource to have concise and to the point, and is so flexible and available to chat and support. Eva is amazing. We are so thankful to her program and her dedication and understanding having had firsthand experience in getting our family’s life on track with sleep training, our almost three year old, he had never slept or nap sufficiently. We lacked structure and an understanding of sleep scheduling. Eva helped us with a catered plan that worked with our family and day night routine. She is so wonderful to work with and we have felt heard and supported throughout the entire process.
Thankfully, that plan was a huge success. And months later, we are still doing amazing. Following her notes and suggestions. We would recommend Eva services to anyone who is going through the thick of it. We wish we would have contacted her sooner. Five stars all around you guys. So many of you have two year olds, three year olds, four year olds, five year olds. And you’re thinking it is too late. We waited too long to try and get them sleeping. We never sleep trained them. And I just have to wait until my kiddo is 18 and out the house before I can sleep for the night again. And I wanna shout from the rooftops that it is never too late to get your little one sleeping like a champ. Just listen to Lucy here. Who’s very strong willed. Three year old, we got sleeping like a champ when he was previously waking up so many times throughout the night and was bed sharing and it was just wa wasn’t working for the family anymore.
So thank you, Lucy so much for such a wonderful, lovely review. Okay. So when we’re talking about bedtime fears, being scared of the dark, et cetera, I wanna emphasize that this to a huge extent is definitely very, very normal, but it is important to differentiate between simply being scared, you know, faking upset dramatics versus really being truly frightened. We’re talking if your little one’s heart is racing, their palms are sweaty. They’re freaking out very, very, very scared. Then this would definitely be a great opportunity for you to find a therapist or a counselor. If this fear is legitimate and is very graphic, um, there are specialists out there that can really help your little one conquer that fear head on so that they don’t have to be living like this day in and day out. But what I wanna focus more on today is that first category where there’re a little bit afraid of the dark, but it’s definitely much more dramatics.
And, uh, you know, perhaps a little bit of bedtime battles incorporated into these fears. So there is a number of factors that I want you to be aware of that could very well be contributing to your little one’s fear of going to sleep at bedtime, being afraid of the dark, et cetera. So the first thing that I want you to be aware of is your little one’s screen time. Um, make sure that when they’re watching TV, that there isn’t anything remotely scary that they’re watching. And it’s important to emphasize that what might not appear to be scary to you might actually be really frightening to them. So you wanna take a look and see cuz a lot of these kids shows they might be completely family friendly, G rated, but if you’re little ones got an imagination of their own and you know, they’re seeing something on the television that just freaks them out or spooks them out.
And uh, and they’re seeing this on TV regularly, that could be making them feel very scared. So if I was in your shoes and you’re dealing with something like this, I would be paying extra attention to what they’re watching. If they’re old enough to talk to you and use your words, like you can even try asking them if something that they’re watching on TV is scary or sometimes you might even be watching an episode of something and going, oh my gosh, that is actually really scary. Gosh, you know what? I’m gonna make sure that my kid doesn’t watch that show anymore. And this is especially relevant. If your little one is getting screen time, at some point before they go to sleep, I would recommend actually eliminating that screen time. So screen time. So generally speaking across the board, I am a very big advocate of cutting out screens at least an hour before it’s time for them to go to bed.
Because again, something that they can interpret should be a little bit frightening or scary or, um, unsettling. If they’re seeing it right before they’re going to sleep, that’s going to make going into their room and being by themselves in the dark at night, that much more frightening. So you know what, when the weather is nice, I would strongly recommend just taking your kiddos outside instead or letting them play around in the backyard. Because first of all, you don’t want them being exposed to all that, um, blue light that comes in from the screen, that’s gonna suppress their melatonin. And then on top of that, if they’re being exposed to things that might come across as a little bit frightening or scary, it’s gonna make going to sleep that much harder. Now, another thing that I want you to think about and ask yourself is whether your little one’s bedtime is too late, because if your little one is overtired because they maybe aren’t napping anymore during the day and their bedtime needs to be bumped early or for whatever reason, they’re just not getting enough sleep over a 24 hour period.
They’re not napping. Well, they’re not going to bed when they need to be going to bed over. Tiredness can also trigger nightmares and night terrors and fears around bedtime because when we’re sleep deprived, we can’t think straight, right? It causes our cortisol to go up, which is a stress hormone. And it can make us feel a lot more anxious, a lot more on edge, and sometimes it can really make our imaginations go, go run wild. And so you wanna be extra cognizant of what kind of schedule your little one is on. And if you’re thinking in the back of your mind, you know what? My little one is probably going to bed too late, even bumping that bedtime 30 or 45 minutes earlier can really make a big difference. The third thing that I want you to think about is your little one’s bedtime routine.
First of all, does your little one have a bedtime routine? And if they do have a bedtime routine, is it a fun enjoying relaxing time of day for them in particular, this is really, really important because the bedtime routine allows your little one to mentally prepare, to go to sleep and to relax and wind down before it’s time for them to go into bed. And without that routine or without enough of that routine, then it’s gonna make it that much harder for them to settle, which can make them feel that much more on edge and fearful about just randomly going into bed by themselves, cold Turkey. We wanna make sure that your little one, not only has that wind down routine in place, but that it’s consistent. It’s predictable and you want a good chunk of it happening in their room so that they have ample opportunity to wind down in this space that they feel safe and secure and friends.
This is so important without a proper wind down routine for your little one, it’s such a foundational piece of healthy sleep habits and sleep hygiene that it’s like all bets are off. And then, yeah, of course, without that opportunity to wind down bedtime fears can emerge because they’re just not feeling settled enough to go to sleep just yet. All right. The fourth thing that I want you to think about in terms of tackling your little one’s bedtime fears is their sleep environment specifically and what they go to sleep with. So is there room an inviting comfortable place to be? Do they like being in there room during the day? Are they comfortable being in there by themselves? Do they have a source of comfort? You know, a comfort item of some kind like a levy, a blanky, you know, a Teddy bear, something that they can get comfort from.
If your little one doesn’t have a comfort item, there is no better time, like the presence than to introduce one now. Um, they’re likely not gonna bond with it immediately right away, but if you work on encouraging them to snuggle up with it during your bedtime routine or when they go to sleep, eventually they are going to learn that they can get lots of comfort from their levy, their Teddy bear, their blanky, et cetera. Now, the final factor that I want you to think about with regards to your little one’s bedtime fears is, is your little one able to consistently fall asleep by himself. Does he consistently fall asleep by himself? Because you see this isn’t going to work. If your little one needs you to be there until they fall asleep, because it’s, you sort of wanna think of this as like a learned helplessness, right?
Where they haven’t gotten the opportunity to learn, to be in their room, falling asleep by themselves. If their habit is to always have you there in some way, shape or form. So, as I mentioned before, make sure that your little one is able to practice being in their room all by themselves during the day on top of that, if you have always needed to either lie down next to your little one or rock them or hold them, or sit in a chair or do something until they fall asleep. And this is clearly causing problems, then part of the solution might need to involve weaning you from the equation here. So gradually over time having you move further and further away so that your little one can become more and more independent and becomes less and less reliant on you and your presence as a means of falling asleep and falling back to sleep.
Because so sometimes when a child says, no, no, no, mommy, you know, don’t leave. I’m scared a lot of the time, what that might simply mean is that they’re scared because it’s different than what they’re used to. They’re they’re not used to learning how to fall asleep by themselves. They’re used to you being right there and we’re all creatures of habit. We don’t wanna change up our habits. And when we do change up our habits for better or for worse, it can be a little bit scary, but it goes without saying that this is a habit where assuming your bedtime routine and getting your little one to sleep is just not working anymore. Then of course, this is something that is going to, um, be in everyone’s best interest. But you do wanna remember that if your little one is used to you being there and says that, you know, he’s too scared to have you moving further and further away, it likely is that learned helplessness, where they just haven’t learned yet how to be in their room by themselves, but with practice and with sort of gradually removing you from the equation, they can absolutely learn how and adapt.
So to summarize, if you are little, one has really deep seated fears and they are sincere and graphic, then a, a therapist that specializes in pediatrics will absolutely be able to help you. If we’re not dealing with fears. To that extent, then definitely be mindful of your little ones, screen time of their daytime schedule. Are they overtired and of their sleep environment as well as whether or not they rely on you to fall asleep independently. So if you have a baby, a toddler or a preschooler specifically who is still not sleeping through the night and you are done waking up feeling like a zombie as if you got hit by a track on a day to day basis, I want you to know that I can help you get your little one consistently sleeping through the night. So you can either get my help in the sleep Bible program, where I have a track that is dedicated just to toddlers and preschoolers, or you can work with me one on one. So if you wanna learn more, you can either watch my free masterclass, how to get your little one consistently sleeping 11 to 12 hours at night. So you can feel like a functioning human. The link to that is in the show notes, or you can send me an email, Eva, my sleeping baby.com. And we can set up a free 15 minute call and chat further. Thanks so much everyone for listening. You have a good day.
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and share this episode with a friend who can benefit from it. I also love hearing from my listeners. So feel free to DM me on Instagram @mysleepingbaby, or send me an email at email@example.com until next time have a wonderful restful nights.