Halloween frights are plenty of fun for brave little boys and girls – at least during the daytime, when the lights are on and mom and dad are close to protect them. But when bedtime comes and the lights are out… well, that’s another story.
It’s hard enough to teach your kids to learn how to comfort themselves to sleep any other time of year, but Halloween poses its own unique challenges. With tricks and treats abound, here’s how to keep your children sleeping soundly through those Halloween fright nights.
How to Prevent Nightmares & Other Sleep Disturbances
Keep the Candy Under Control
Halloween is the season of costumes and candy, the latter of which takes a hard toll on your child’s diet. While your child may not always be under your watch, it is important to keep a strict eye out to make sure that the sugar levels remain low.
In addition to the overall health risks of eating too much sugar, sugar is the real monster wreaking havoc on your child’s sleep. In the least, avoid any sugar and its more nefarious counterpart, caffeine, after dinner. That means no candy for dessert, especially chocolate and soda. These sweet stimulants will keep your kids bouncing off the walls instead of into bed, and will disrupt sleep once it is finally reached.
Get the Energy Out Early
Holidays are hard on your child’s sleep schedule, with all the pent up excitement keeping kids up well into the night. Try to wrap up the Halloween festivities before dinner as much as possible, to avoid the kids from being overstimulated before bed. Save more relaxing bedtime rituals for after dinner, keeping their sleep hygiene as regular as possible.
This means no new scary stories before bed, no matter how hard they beg. Creepy concepts your children are already familiar with and know how to cope with on their own may be okay, but it is best to save any new monsters that may plague them throughout the night for when they have outgrown childlike fears.
Say No to Naps
Even if your child has suffered from poor sleep the night before, due to overexcitement or nightmares, it is best to keep them from taking daytime naps – this will only prolong the cycle. Instead, keep them up until bedtime, when their accumulated sleepiness will hopefully have them drifting soundly to sleep in no time and help them reestablish a good sleep schedule.
Keep a Regular Sleep Environment
While it may be tempting to bring the Halloween ambience all the way to the bedroom, it’s best to keep the decorations outdoors. Good sleep hygiene is strictly trained, and easily undermined by the slightest of change. Halloween decorations can either excite or scare your child, disrupting his or her sleep patterns. Keep their sleep environment comfortable and stable with the right room temperature, security objects firmly at their side, and soft white noise such as the hum of a fan to keep noise pollution at bay.
Keep the Real Scares a Secret
In a way, Halloween is actually two holidays: the one for children played out before bedtime, and the one which plays out after dark. While it may be tempting to have R-rated frights of your own once the kids are in bed, any trace of commotion can be distracting. This is especially important when watching horror movies, which can often be overheard far throughout the house. Keep any frightening festivities far from the children’s rooms, and as muffled as possible. If the children even know that their parents are having festivities of their own, the knowledge alone will tempt them to sneak out of bed and into a scary situation.
How to Stop Nightmares Once They Start
Unfortunately, your children aren’t always under your wing, and can become scared of something they heard at school or from friends. Even if the nightmares have already begun, they can be stopped with care and the proper coping techniques.
If your child remembers them, have him or her talk about the nightmares during the day, long before bedtime. Listen carefully and try to decipher the underlying issue: if the nightmares could be triggered by emotional stress, or anything other than the surface interpretation. If nothing feels emotionally amiss, talk your child through his or her fears. Make sure that he or she feels safe in the bedroom.
Offer security objects, and teach them coping mechanisms such as “tricks” to overcome the monsters, or sit down and rewrite the nightmares so that they have a happy ending. The key is to encourage and empower your child to overcome his or her fears on their own, but not to dismiss them.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Shukla
If your child’s sleeping troubles are more than just a spooky spree, schedule a consultation with pediatric sleep specialist Dr. Mayank Shukla today at the Asthma Allergy Sleep Center of New York.