Home HEALTH New Poll Reveals 25% of Parents Report Bedtime Anxiety in Young Children

New Poll Reveals 25% of Parents Report Bedtime Anxiety in Young Children


When Kelceymarie Warner noticed her daughter’s bedtime anxiety at the age of 6, she observed signs like tenseness and hyperventilation when discussing bedtime too abruptly. As a mother of four young daughters, Warner strongly believes in maintaining a consistent nightly routine to ease their transition to sleep. However, when faced with her 6-year-old’s bedtime anxiety, she had to modify their routine accordingly.

Warner’s experience is not unique—many parents face nightly struggles getting their young children to bed. According to a recent C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 25% of parents report that their child has difficulty falling asleep due to anxiety or worry. Additionally, over one-third of parents noted that their child frequently wakes up upset or crying during the night.

Sarah Clark, co-director of the Mott poll and a research scientist at the University of Michigan, explains that children between 1 to 6 years old undergo various developmental phases that can contribute to nighttime anxieties, such as fear of the dark or imaginary creatures. These anxieties often surface at night, affecting both children and adults alike.

The poll, conducted with 781 parents in February, also revealed that nearly half of parents said their child often moves from their own bed to the parent’s bed at night, and one in three parents reported that their child insists on having a parent stay in the room until they fall asleep.

Clark warns that while these habits may provide temporary relief, they can disrupt a child’s ability to self-soothe and return to sleep independently if they wake up during the night.

Kelceymarie Warner attributes her daughter’s bedtime anxiety to significant changes, including extended stays in the neonatal intensive care unit when her youngest daughter was born prematurely. To address her daughter’s anxiety, Warner introduced calming activities into their bedtime routine, such as drinking herbal tea after bath time, reading together, and affirmations like “I am loved” and “I am important.”

Although this new routine initially took longer, Warner reports that her daughter now navigates parts of it independently after about a year, showing improved self-soothing abilities.

Consistency in bedtime routines is crucial, advises Dr. Lauren Hartstein, an assistant professor in psychiatry at the University of Arizona. She emphasizes that routines signal to a child’s body and brain that it’s time to wind down, aiding in the transition to sleep.

Despite the challenges, nearly 90% of parents polled maintain a consistent bedtime routine. However, about 27% find bedtime challenging, often resorting to strategies like staying in the child’s room until they fall asleep or leaving the television on.

Dr. Hartstein suggests minimizing media use before bedtime to avoid stimulating a child’s brain, which can interfere with their ability to wind down for sleep.

Regarding melatonin use, the poll found that 20% of parents sometimes or often give melatonin to their young children before bed—a practice not recommended for children under 3 years old due to potential developmental implications.

Parents concerned about their child’s sleep patterns or daytime fatigue should consult with their pediatrician, Dr. Hartstein advises. She stresses the importance of establishing healthy sleep habits rather than relying on medications like melatonin to address behavioral sleep issues in young children.

In summary, while bedtime anxiety is common among young children, consistent routines and parental guidance can significantly help ease nighttime struggles and promote better sleep habits over time.