More than 80% of children suffer from sleep anxiety

As many as eight in ten primary school children experience bedtime anxiety.

New research shows just how many children are worried and fearful about going to sleep.

Sleep experts at Silentnight conducted the study, which found almost a quarter of children are scared of the dark, one in five have nightmares, and the same amount are scared of sleeping alone.

Worries about school impact around 14% of children, with fear of bullies causing kids to lose sleep.

Young children are recommended to get 10 hours of sleep per night, but almost half are only getting only seven to eight, while waking up around two times, on average, every night.

So it’s clear it’s not just adults who are struggling to sleep.

Hannah Shore, sleep knowledge and researcher manager at Silentnight, said: ‘There are numerous causes of anxiety in children that can impact negatively on their sleep.

‘These include over thinking, worrying, fear of the dark and worries about going to school. 

‘Anxieties often surface at bedtime, when the day is over, and they have nothing to distract them from their thoughts. 

‘Children need an average of 10 hours sleep per night, depending on their age. Our survey reveals that the average child is not getting anywhere near this, because they are fearful of going to sleep and waking up in the night. 

‘It’s not just about the quantity of sleep they get, but the quality. Children need a good mixture of all types of sleep to get good sleep quality.

‘REM sleep has links with memory consolidation, emotional processing and learning and NREM sleep is restorative sleep where toxins are washed from our brains and growth hormones are released.’

Sleep tips for children, according to sleep expert Natalie Costa:

Creating a cosy sleep environment 

Explore with them how they can create a cosy environment by tidying their bedroom, having a special pillow or blanket or a lamp that illuminates a softer glow etc. 

Calm the worries 

Bedtime can often be a time when children share their worries or anxieties of the day.

Help your child work through these worries by getting them to journal, draw or write out what is on their mind. You can also offer to hold on to the worries for your child, by telling them that you’ll look after them so that your child doesn’t have to.

Hand-on-heart-breathing 

Typically, when we get anxious or upset, our breathing starts to quicken – intensifying those nervy emotions.

Teach your child how to breath into their belly (or diaphragm) – taking slow, deep breaths in through their nose, and slowly exhaling through their mouth, as if they’re blowing out through a straw.  

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