“4-year-old wants to sleep with the lights on”, this is a very common complaint of parents of kids this age.
According to Healthline, “Exposure to light during sleep makes it difficult for your brain to achieve deeper sleep. The more shallow or light sleep you get at night, the more your brain oscillations (activity) that allow you to get to deeper stages of sleep are negatively affected.”
It is important as a parent to know why your child is not sleeping in the dark and listen to his concerns rather than just imposing changes overnight.
For the sake of cozy and peaceful sleep, the lights should be off or very dim so that your child wakes up happy and energetic.
Reasons why a 4-year-old wants to sleep with the light on:
There are plenty of reasons why your 4-year-old might want to sleep on with the lights on. Here are the most common reasons.
1- He is afraid of the dark:
This could be the most common reason among 4-year-olds who prefers to sleep with the lights on.
4-year-olds are still figuring out the world around them, it may be possible that sleeping in a dark room makes them anxious or scared.
Think of us as adults who try to sleep in a fully dark room, sometimes it gives us negative vibes so it goes the same for a 4-year-old that he may be afraid of the dark even though no one has ever made him afraid of it.
2- He has seen a horror movie/clip in your absence.
If your 4-year-old has been sleeping in a dark room, but now he won’t; there is a possibility that your child has seen some horror movie or clip in your absence and now it is getting out of his control to forget about it.
Let me share my experience, I decided to watch a horror movie with my elder siblings when I was just 5 or 6, but it turned out to be a nightmare for me as the movie scenes haunted me for weeks.
I used to stay up all night staring at the corners of the room and couldn’t even go to the bathroom alone at night.
So these kinds of horror movies leave scary effects on the mind which fade away after a long time.
3- He has an overactive imagination.
Kids with overactive imaginations may feel scared of sleeping in the dark.
Children at the age of 4 usually have a hard time distinguishing between reality and their imagination.
4- He is scared to be alone in the bed.
Usually, kids who just shifted to their bed demand to sleep in the lights.
It is because they feel insecure and alone and dark makes this feeling more intense.
Lights on in the room may help them to see things around easily.
5- He is comfortable sleeping with lights on.
Some kids feel more comfortable sleeping with lights on.
It doesn’t need to be always a fear of the dark, kids who have slept in open lights since their infant and toddler phase prefer the light to be on and find comfort in it.
6- He has bad dreams.
Children who go through some unsettling situations or stress such as starting preschool, shifting to a new house, or the arrival of a sibling tend to have unsettled or bad dreams at night.
So when they wake up from a bad dream and see dark all around them, they feel scared of it and associate that feeling with dark.
7- He may have associated separation from his parents with darkness.
Most of the parents wish to separate their preschooler’s bed before he starts school so that he becomes independent but that turns out to be separation anxiety for their child.
So when the child suffers from separation anxiety he might associate darkness with separation.
Nyctophobia is a phobia of extreme fear of the dark.
Children who suffer from Nyctophobia have trouble sleeping in the dark to the extent that they have panic attacks, extreme sweating, shortness of breath, or unconsciousness.
These kids sometimes cannot even go outside at night.
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How to cope with a 4-year-old who is afraid of the dark/ How to train a 4-year-old to sleep with lights off:
Now, let’s discuss how to help your child to sleep comfortably with the lights off.
1- Discuss his fear if he is scared of the dark.
Ask your child to share why exactly he wants to sleep with lights on. If he specifies that he is afraid of the dark and he fears something would happen to him then address his issue and convenience him that he is safe and being monitored.
2- Develop a consistent bedtime routine.
The most important step to take is to establish a soothing bedtime routine that includes a lot of cuddling, story reading, lullabies or even listening to soft music.
It’s best to read some funny books before bed so your little one can become happy before he falls asleep.
When your child goes to sleep peacefully and relaxed, chances are less that he wakes up with a bad dream or gets scared of the dark.
Soothing Bedtime Stories:
Stories have a huge impact on kid’s thinking. When they listen to stories, they feel them. You can take advantage of this and read some stories to your child that could help him overcome his fear of sleeping with the lights off.
I have some amazing suggestions for bedtime stories that help the child to sleep in the dark peacefully.
Cutie Sue is an adorable book that helps kids find the courage not to fear the dark. The illustrations are beautifully presented and the rhyming storyline is fun to read. This book presents a few strategies to help kids who struggle to sleep in the dark. The book will be a great pick for bedtime stories for your 4-year-old!
This beautifully illustrated storybook enlightens how to overcome the fear of darkness at night. There is a great message across the story of a boy named Chris who let go of his all fear, learned to be brave, and shared all this fear with his mom. This book gives lessons to overcome fear and be brave and believe in yourself.
3- Gradually reduce the lights in the room.
Start the routine by dimming the lights in your child’s bedroom every day. Gradually reduce the lights through several nights until your child gets used to dim lights and comfortably sleeps with the lights off.
4- Provide a comforting object:
Does your child have a favorite character or friend plushie? Try making them sleep with their “lovey”.
Most kids at age 4, have a favorite character. You can get a related plushie or stuffed animal and make your child sleep while hugging them.
5- Let him know that you are nearby and monitoring him.
If your child is having a tough time settling alone in bed, give him repeated assurance that you will be continuously monitoring him.
The best you can do is to stay with him until he falls asleep.
Tell him that it’s his own house and he is completely safe here.
6- Provide nightlights if he is afraid of the dark.
If darkness is the reason he wants to sleep in with lights on then consider using a night light in the room. Some kids and even adults cannot sleep in a completely dark room as it gives them weird vibes.
This cute little cat night light can become your child’s companion when he struggles to sleep in the dark. This cat night light comes with 4 modes, the color changing every 3 seconds, holding to the favorite color, sleeping mode lights, and standard warm light. This night light gives a cozy warm light that gives a soothing effect in the room and helps your child to have a peaceful sleep.
7- Avoid showing him horror movies/closely monitor what he is watching.
Never offer him to watch horror movies with you and closely monitor what he watches on the TV.
Some cartoon also gives horror vibes, for me it was “Courage the Cowardly Dog”
8- Never make him afraid of monsters/ don’t tell horror stories.
Never make him afraid of weird sounds or call the monster when he gives you a tough time during the sleep routine.
Such words echos in a child’s mind and make him afraid of sleeping alone or sleeping in the dark.
9- Encourage/reward him when he starts to sleep in dim lights.
Encouraging and rewarding are two main things when it comes to training a child in any aspect. Encourage and reward your child with the slightest improvement and keep up with your training.
10- Install fairy lights in the room to make it more happening/attractive.
Fairy lights make the living space more lively and cozy. These lights are soothing as well as give happening vibes in the room. We have beautiful fairy lights suggestions for your little one.
These star LED lights will make your child happy and remind him of the poem “ Twinkle twinkle little stars”. These LED lights can be decorated anywhere in the room but to make things visible, you can put them on the curtain ceilings.
Preschoolers especially boys love dinosaurs a lot. What else could be better to have lights with dinosaurs hanging on them? These LED lights are powerful enough to lighten the room to an extent that your child can easily look around.
11- Don’t push him to sleep in the dark if he is uncomfortable.
If nothing works, let him be, and don’t try to impose yourself on him.
Continuous pushing and strictness can change normal fear of the dark into Nyctophobia which becomes extremely hard for the parents to handle, so let it be, this phase too shall pass.