Although it sounds a bit strange, you are also learning to sleep! And it is that, like other behaviors, it is also a habit, essential to the development of children. Thus, it is important that children learn to sleep on their own, in their bed.
However, in many families there is a concern that is repeated over and over again: “What if my child is afraid to sleep alone?In this article, we answer these and other questions, and give you tips for meeting this challenge, keep reading!
My son is afraid to sleep alone and worries me
During childhood and mid-development, boys and girls learn a series of habits and behaviors that will gradually strengthen their autonomy. One of these habits is sleeping alone, as this behavior can also be learned.
Ideally, from a young age, they learn to sleep in their own bed.; that is, they should already have their own crib and parents get used to always taking them to sleep in this one, and not in their (parents’).
While it is true that when we educate we also have to be flexible, and sometimes the child ends up sleeping in the parents’ bed (because he is sick, has nightmares, fears, etc.), this should be one-time acts, because the longer it takes you to get 100% sleep in your bed, the harder it will be to get used to it.
Thus, sleeping alone is a habit of independence that can be learned over time, and parents should play an active role in this good practice.
The fact that the boy or the girl gets used to sleeping in his parents’ bed, can cause the following problem: being afraid to sleep alone. Fortunately, this is something that can be worked on, and that is why in this article we are going to see a series of guidelines for your child to end up sleeping on his own, in his own bed and without fear.
Guidelines for encouraging sleep alone in childhood
In order for our child to lose the fear of sleeping alone, we will need to apply a number of bedtime guidelines, which will encourage their independence and reduce their anxiety.
1. Establish a routine
Children, like adults, need routines and directions for going to bed (sleep hygiene) because this, in addition to making sleep easier, will help us improve our children’s independence and safety when it’s about sleeping alone.
So, ideally, they get used to sleeping in their own bed, and around the same time. If they come to our bed, we will have to accompany them to theirs, as often as necessary.. Ideally, we should not get into debates or discussions with them. Before we will have to explain clearly (next point).
Routines help reduce children’s anxiety by structuring their daily life and time. What should the bedtime routine include? Some ideas are: brushing your teeth, a story or a song, a hot shower, a glass of milk, pampering, etc. All of this will help us educate our child’s dream.
2. Explain things well
Depending on the age of our child, we will have to adapt our language to their understanding; in case you are already old enough to reason and understand, we will tell you that you are old enough to sleep on your own, and you cannot sleep in your father and mother’s bed (or any of the of them).
We will tell you that if you come, you will have to go back to bed (accompanying or not, depending on your age).
3. Let him sleep in the same place
Although this directive is also part of the routines, we are including it here to be an important point. like that, ideally our child should have a bedroom and a bed to sleep in (Always the same), and that we avoid unnecessary changes, as this will complicate the process.
4. Take care of the environmental conditions
The room should be quiet, free from disturbing noises and bed and mattress, suitable for your age, height and weight. In addition, the temperature must also be controlled (room temperature, neither good cold nor a lot of heat).
5. Reinforce it when you sleep alone
Another very important aspect is to strengthen all those nights when the child was able to sleep on his own, especially the first ones (when time passes, this is no longer necessary). Thus, we can reinforce it with a compliment, a hug, a gesture, a small price, etc.
At what age to sleep alone?
After all that has been said (or even before), the following question may arise: From what age is it recommended for our child to sleep alone?
If each child is a world, and will have to be flexible with him, the truth is that from the age of 3, the ideal is for the child to sleep alone and independently (without having to go to bed with the parents at midnight or who sleeps directly with them). Delaying this process could affect the child’s independence and safety, and the child may develop a fear of sleeping alone.
What to do with nightmares?
Often, children suffer from nightmares or night terrors, a sleep disorder different from nightmares. This can lead to anxiety and fear of sleeping alone, and is quite understandable and normal.. However, our role as parents should be to reassure when this happens, but not to become an obstacle for them to sleep alone.
The goal is for the child to learn to overcome these fears by already “tolerating” nightmares in case they occur. In addition, there are also techniques for treating nightmares or night terrors, such as repeat imaging therapy (IRT), which is widely used for nightmares.
On the other hand, when the child wakes up screaming or crying because he has had a nightmare or night terror, we can go to his bed to reassure him, but by preventing him from falling asleep with us (Especially when the child is already starting to “grow old”).
Consequences of (not) sleeping alone
The fact that our child does not learn to sleep on his own, or delays this stage so necessary for his development, can have a number of negative consequences on his well-being. These affect their development, and they will emotional dependence on parents (excessive), insecurities or difficulty performing other tasks that promote independence. We must not only consider the negative consequences of our child sleeping (again) with us, but also the positive consequences of sleeping alone in bed.
In this way, educating in the dream we also educate for autonomy, and we promote aspects as important in its development as: self-esteem, security, independence, etc.
- Rodriguez, AS and BR Garcia. (2005). Sleep patterns in healthy children. Pediatric bowl, 45: p. 17 – 22.
- Newman, BM, Newman PR, Villela, XM, Perez, RR. (1991). Manual of child psychology. Mexico: Science and Technology Publishing.
- NV Sirerol, IK Amin, TM Rodríguez, CS Fruits. (2002). Sleep patterns in children. Annals of Pediatrics, 57 (2): p. 127-130.