Things That Go Bump in the Night
31st October 2013
Halloween is almost upon us. As we sharpen our pumpkin carving knives and begin to hang spooky cobwebs from our living room windows, we thought it would be a good time to discuss why Halloween can often turn our well-behaved little angels into ghoulish gremlins when it comes time to putting them to bed. Avoiding a nightmare bedtime scenario and zombified little devils, takes some forethought, but there are measures parents can put in place to make the season go more smoothly…
Keep sweets to a minimum
No parent enjoys having to deny their child the pleasure of munching their way through a mound of chocolate and toffee chews, but pigging out at Halloween can have an unintended negative impact – not just on little ones waist lines and oral health, but on their sleeping patterns too. Sweets inhibit sleep because they rapidly raise our blood sugar levels. When these sugar levels subsequently come crashing down, the body releases hormones to try and level things out. And it’s these hormone fluctuations that retard sleep.
Your best bet, to limit the impact of the Halloween sweet glut, is to restrict your children’s intake as much as possible. It’s also worth trying to shift their sweet intake to earlier in the day, as this will give the maximum opportunity for blood sugar levels to stabilise before bed.
Allow some time to wind-down.
Halloween is a very stimulating time for children – there are flashing lights, bright colours, scary costumes, fireworks and excited shrieking. Amid all that noise and excitement, children often find it very difficult to calm down, slow their thoughts and relax into sleep as efficiently as they usually would.
To help them to transition between ‘all systems go’ and ‘quiet contemplation’, build some time into the day, just before bed, where they can unwind and let go of the day’s momentum. This is a good opportunity to read a (non-scary) bedtime story, or help them relax with a soothing bath.
Stick to regular bedtimes
Routines often go out the window during the holidays, but it’s important to make sure your children stick to their normal schedules as much as possible. We all know the consequences when children get overtired – and it’s rarely a pleasant experience for anyone! Children under six should be getting about 11 hours sleep, so try to plan your festivities around their nap and bedtimes to maximise the fun. After all, the scariest thing imaginable is a cranky, sleep-deprived toddler!
Reduce the scare factor
At this point you’re probably thinking, “isn’t Halloween supposed to be scary!?” Er, well yes. We’re certainly not suggesting that ensuring your children get a good night’s sleep requires you to proclaim a total ban on haunted houses, movie marathons, ghosts, goblins, witches and ghouls.
However, it is important to be mindful of what your children are able to handle and at what stage they have developed the necessary awareness to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Bad dreams can have a serious impact on children’s psychological well-being, so don’t be afraid to exclude younger siblings from activities you judge to be too mature for them. You can always take them on that graveyard tour next year!
Nightmares happen, whatever the time of year, but the Halloween season can provoke unwelcome thoughts and images. When your child suffers a bad dream, be there to comfort and reassure them, but don’t feel that you have to go to any special lengths to sooth and coddle them back to sleep.
While it’s tempting to fuss, what this can communicate to your child is that a bad dream is something they need to be protected from. Instead, try to work with your little one to develop coping mechanisms – perhaps a special ‘bad dream teddy’ or a protective nightlight? It’s also helpful to have a favourite book on-hand that will distract them and encourage calmer, happier thoughts.