Bedtime Routine for Children with Anxiety

posted in: Apollo, Large Family, Special Needs | 11

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We all know bedtime routines are important for children. But they are even more important and (in my opinion) more difficult to establish in children with anxiety. It has been a long, slow process with Apollo and he still doesn’t go to bed on his own (or sleep through the night consistently), but things are getting better. Here I will share our current bedtime routine which includes GoodNites Bedtime Pants and GoodNites Bed Mats.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety. Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

Apollo has never, ever been a good sleeper. I can tell you the exact day it all went down and his anxiety began: January 18th, 2012. He awoke from his MRI (his second time under anesthesia in a month) with anxiety. After his first heart surgery March 7th (he was 21 months old) he was terrified of sleep. Words like “bedtime” “brush your teeth” and “pajamas” would send him into a panic. We have been working on his bedtime routine and anxiety ever since. It has been a long, slow, uphill battle. 

Right now we have a system that is far from perfect, but works. 

Here are my (tried and true) Tips to Establish a Bedtime Routine for Kids with Anxiety:

1. Have a routine. 

All kids love routine (deep down) and kids with anxiety absolutely thrive on routine. Let your child know what is happening and when. You may want to post a schedule or pictures, if that helps your child.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

2. Slowly wind down.

It often helps if you child can slowly wind down in the last hour or so before bedtime. Ideas for this are: a bath (if your child finds that relaxing), books or a quiet toy. Rough housing is out and so are screens. The light from the screens can actually inhibit melatonin production.

Speaking of melatonin, Apollo takes it, as prescribed by his doctor. We have been slowly lowering his dose for the past year or so.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

3. Have a soft night-light.

I bought this adorable Twilight Turtle out of desperation one day. It has a soft glow and projects stars onto the ceiling. Be careful though, too much light can also inhabit melatonin production and we don’t want to interfere with that! After all, melatonin is what makes our little angels (and ourselves) tired.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

4. Hygiene and Bedwetting

It is important to establish good hygiene routines when your kids are small. Apollo brushes and flosses his teeth, goes potty and puts on his GoodNites Bedtime Pants (these are comfy and fit like underwear). All of our kids have wet the bed at his age* and according to the doctor it is perfectly normal and kids can’t control it.

GoodNites is the only brand that contains Apollo’s overnight urine. Also, if you have a heavy wetter, try the GoodNites Bed Pads. Not only do they absorb a ton (and keep you from washing sheets daily) they have adhesive so they don’t move all around and get scrunched up in the night. I love these things!

*1 in 6 kids wet the bed potty training ends. Or in our case, 10 out of 11. So yeah…we pretty much never go to Walmart without returning home with GoodNites; they have best selection and price for bedwetting products.

Establishing a bedtime routine for children with anxiety.

5. Be Patient

We have been working on Apollo’s sleep routine for years, now. The steps seem small, but when I look back I can see the progress he has made. He is no longer afraid to sleep. Despite struggling with an oral aversion, he now brushes his teeth. And, he sleeps all night about fifty percent of the time.

And of course, these years really do come to an end…Adalia lives in New Zealand and Judah is away at university. Some day, Apollo will either sleep through the night or move out of the house. Either way, I’ll finally be getting my sleep!

I purchased both products at Walart and now you can get $2 off coupon for Walmart purchases while supplies last! If you can’t find the coupon, check back in later. 

Do you have any kids with anxiety? What does your bedtime routine look like? Are you a “lay down with them” parent? Or a “tuck them in and leave the room” parent? 

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11 Responses

  1. This was great and something I needed to read. I will be using some of these tips with my son. I have heard of melatonin but never used it. I will be picking some up today. Thanks.

  2. Anna Quigley

    If they’re really wound up, I lay with them. Often they end up crawling all over me so I get up and tuck them in after a bit.
    Good to know about 1 in 6! My 4.5 year old still wets heavily at night after being day trained for a year. My older 2 were dry at night pretty quickly after they day trained. He’s in the largest size nighttime diaper (size 6). I haven’t gone to Goodnights because they’re so much more expensive than diapers. I may have to soon though, the 6s barely fit. Pull-ups don’t absorb enough.

  3. We use Superundies (reusable bedwetting undies). They’re pretty bulky, but work well. They’re also expensive ($30 each), but having three works out and I figure $90 is less than we’d be spending on disposables. We also use reusable waterproof bed pads under the sheets. They’re not really absorbent, but at least save us from constantly washing mattress pads (the Superundies usually keep the sheets dry, and we use the bed pads between the sheets and mattress pad).

    • Years ago we used cloth ones, but they began to smell really bad. We have used cloth diapers plenty over the years, but found with older children the urine had such a strong smell that I was unable to get out.

      • I know what you mean–we used cloth diapers but not at night after about 12-15 months (earlier than that with our last) because of the smell and not being absorbent enough. For us, it works to rinse out the nighttime undies before washing and then doing a double rinse. So far the smell hasn’t been a problem with rinsing first, but we’ll see after several more months (I don’t forsee my bedwetter stopping anytime soon).

  4. The triplets share a room, so I typically just close the door and let them wind down. They will talk to each other for a while and then go to sleep. It’s actually kind of sweet to hear them! #client

  5. I’m lucky that my kids generally just go to sleep without too much hassle. I do find though, that I’m a lot more willing to let the youngest in our bed for snuggles now. I would never have done it with the older two!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Yes, Apollo is our first to have these issues…and we could “force” it, but we choose not to Prior to Apollo we used to be “bed time is bed time” folks…but his health issues have made it impossible (and unsafe) to “make” him sleep alone all night.

  6. […] and I got our bedtime routine down pat from baby number one. We are pretty no-nonsense (Apollo and his health issues aside) when it comes to bedtime. Brush teeth, go potty, Pull-Ups, […]

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