By Rita Brhel, managing editor and attachment parenting resource leader (API)
Being scared of the dark is a widespread nighttime issue for young children, and in the great majority of the time, the root of this fear is grounded in a very active imagination with only a budding, limited ability to reason. But, in some occurrences, the fear of the dark can actually point to a more serious, chronic medical reason requiring the attention of a health professional.
Medically significant sleep disorders in preschool and school-age children, and teens, include:
- Earaches – Sleeping is uncomfortable with an ear infection because the change in position creates increased pressure.
- Asthma – A nighttime cough is a common symptom of asthma, as is if your child wakes up crying and unable to breathe normally.
- Parasites – Pinworms, which are tiny and thread-like worms on the bottom, are active at night and cause itchiness.
- Obstructive sleep apnea – Sometimes, enlarged tonsils or adenoids in the throat partially obstruct the airway, causing the child to stop breathing temporarily.
- Bed-wetting – Children as old as 12 can have difficulty not wetting the bed at night, due to physical development of the bladder and bladder muscles as well as immaturity in the part of the brain that communicates when it’s time to empty the bladder.
- Restless legs syndrome – “Creepy,” crawling sensations may affect the legs or the arms.
- Periodic limb movement disorder – Usually affecting the legs, there is an overwhelming feeling that the limbs must be moved several times throughout the night, as often as every 30 seconds.
- Stationary night blindness – An inability to see at all in the dark, the eyes never actually adjust to the dark.