Dreams & Nightmares - Scared of the Dark?

kids tips sleeping

Most of us lead visual and imaginative lives, but the downside to imagination is that it can sometimes get the better of us. Especially with the recent new moon (the moon is completely in the Earth's shadow) and Halloween coming up, perhaps our fears stem from the stories we're told as children, or the movies we watch late at night. Whatever the reason, being scared of the dark is a common and natural fear, and one that can be managed.

Darkness for Children

Most young children have active imaginations. Younger kids sometimes can't distinguish between fantasy and reality. Childhood anxiety needs to be addressed early and sensitively. Asking what frightens the child is the first step. Next, show that you understand their fear and reassure them that they're safe. If the fear is imagined, such as a monster under the bed, explain that monsters don't exist. If they fear something real, such as an intruder, it may be helpful to show them that the house is secure.

Take practical steps to ensure a child feels safe even when they're alone:

  • Leave the bedroom door open - this will break up the darkness and reassure the child that someone is close by
  • Install a dim night light so that the child can turn it on if they feel scared
  • Monitor the child's exposure to TV and books, ensuring they only view what is appropriate for their age
  • Sit on their bed and check for shapes or shadows that might enhance their fear

Darkness for Adults

One of the trickiest things for us to do at night is judge distance and depth. Our sight is next to useless without light, and in these circumstances, our other senses take control. We detect sounds we'd usually ignore. We notice textures and temperature more keenly. And we're hyper-aware of our balance. These are ancient survival instincts, and although we don't have to worry about being eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger anymore, that doesn't stop our biological defences from booting up at the first sign of imagined danger.

Most of the time, it's our anticipation of fear, rather than fear itself, that creates tension and stops us from sleeping. The best solution is to address the source of the anxiety:

  • Discuss your fears - sometimes it's good to just get it off your chest and receive reassurance
  • Remove all items from sight that are likely to contribute to your fear, such as objects that cast dark shadows or things that create noise
  • Let in a little light to help with depth perception
  • Listen carefully to the sounds that frighten you and identify each of them
  • Avoid scary films and books