Some children struggle with anxiety more than others, and one of the ways anxiety can affect a person is inability to go to sleep. Sleeplessness, especially in children, may or may not be due to rogue thoughts or worries; it may be due to a decreased level of the hormone melatonin. While many factors can decrease the production of melatonin, a common culprit is lower levels of serotonin and other “feel-good chemicals” or heightened amounts of adrenaline and other stress hormones.
Yes, medication can be used to treat those problems, but it is a trial-and-error situation, since every individual responds in different ways. Often, medications come with adverse side effects, as well, so it is a wiser route to try to identify contributing factors or triggers and establish better coping mechanisms in order to prevent the problem from occurring.
What kinds of situations or “what if” scenarios cause your child anxiety? Common triggers include social situations, academic challenges, performances and competitions, or family tension.
For many children, overly busy schedules or pressure to succeed can eclipse the benefits of extracurricular activities. An overloaded schedule that leaves no room for “down time” can promote a continual rush of stress hormones, even if the child is not particularly anxious or fearful about the events or activities that leave him or her “keyed up.”
As you chart your child’s hyperactivity, melt downs, or other anxiety symptoms throughout the day, you will begin to see patterns emerging. As you begin to identify triggers, you will be able to respond to them in relevant ways.
As you unveil and respond to your child’s typical anxiety triggers, you’ll be able to make a plan to decrease some opportunities for anxiety while helping your child work through necessary parts of life in a healthy way that doesn’t get the fight-or-flight response working against him.
Let’s say your child generally struggles with social anxiety as well as performance anxiety, making both the school day and dance class prime opportunities for stress hormones to surge. Instead of scheduling dance lessons immediately after school, perhaps you could sign your child up for a Saturday dance class or reserve the activity for summertime when school-related stress is eliminated.
If dance, or another extracurricular, is truly your child’s passion, perhaps you could check out alternative forms of education, such as a different school with smaller class size or even homeschooling.
Once you’ve identified fears or common anxiety triggers and eliminated unnecessary extras, it’s time to start to work through some of them. During the daytime hours, helping your child to create and begin to climb a “fear ladder” like this one (PDF) can help reduce anxiety over time.
However, in the short term, doing so may cause stress levels to skyrocket! Because of that, it’s important to couch challenging situations between familiar, calming activities. In regards to nighttime sleep, it’s ideal to schedule such opportunities early in the day, allowing plenty of time for recovery before bedtime.
• Promoting Healthy Sleep by Reducing Anxiety, Part 2
• Promoting Healthy Sleep by Encouraging Circadian Rhythms
Bedroom Source Blog
- Do your kids get healthy sleep? Part 1
- Do your kids get healthy sleep? Part 2
- Do your kids get healthy sleep? Part 3
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