Question from member: We’re struggling a lot with my daughter’s sleep lately. She’s just scared at night and always complaining about being alone. I know to work on her anxiety and yuck release strategies during the day but I’m looking for suggestions on how to make her feel safer at night. I also hate being alone at night so I’m very sympathetic to her cause but OMG STAY IN BED!?
Reply from Rachel: Have you heard of the book “Go the F* To Sleep”? There’s a reason it’s so popular! So yes, I agree, stay in bed!
The way you handle this isn’t much different than the way you’d do this during the day. She just needs a way to cope (a Yuck Release Strategy) for nighttime. So think about what works for her during the day and modify it for the evening.
This could be something like surrounding herself with stuffed animals or wrapping herself up tight in a blanket (weighted blankets can work wonders!)… it could be having her make up a story to tell you in the morning… it could be having her do some mental exercises that occupy her mind, like coming up with new lyrics to a tune she knows.
You can also (and you’ve probably done this already) ask her if she needs anything else, like a night light or something simple like that.
Knowing her, she should be in control of this process… and she may prefer a more engaging Yuck Release strategy.
And of course you want to practice this between times of Yuck! You can do this where she’s putting YOU to bed and you’re modeling her strategy, and then switch roles. You can even have her put her dolls (or whatever she’s into) to bed, etc.
Then ultimately, slowly stop supporting her. Start by telling her that you’ll come into her room only 5 times, then 4, then 3… And remind yourself that once she has the tools to handle it, it’s important that she does handle it.
Reply from member: Thanks. I think she’s struggling because the yuck releases that work during the day are all physical (run in a circle, push on the wall, yell in a pillow type stuff) but at night we’re telling her to stay laying in bed. Maybe wrapping tight in the blanket is a good one to try.
Reply from Rachel: Yes… She can move her body in bed (some kids move their leg back and forth, etc.) and even accompany that with some counting exercise. She can also do some muscle tightening and releasing, which is both physical and relaxing. And yes, lots of physical kids to benefit from the sensory strategies like wrapping tight in blankets.