How to outgrow your fear of the dark

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Many little people fear the dark as do many big people. The trouble is we all need darkness to get the melatonin flowing and a good night's sleep going. But what do you do if your little one (or big one) is terrified and unable to sleep because of the night? All phobias are irrational fears, that is, it is very unlikely that the dark itself will cause any harm, however, your body and mind tell you a very different message. They are screaming "Turn on a light and lets get outta here".

I remember a dream I had as a child where the sun would not rise and everybody (except me of course) would stay asleep forever. In my dream I would run around trying to wake my friends and family but it could not be done. Where do these bizarre feelings come from? Is fear of the dark a helpful survival instinct left over from our cave dwelling days? Did fear of the dark force us to stay close to camp fires and so out of harms way?  Researchers will never know but there are ways to get free from the grip of paralyzing fear.

Firstly, shedding some light on the matter may be all it takes. So invest in a red night light that helps your child (or you) see without hindering his (or your) slumber.

Secondly, learn some lines. When gripped by achluophobia, nyctophobia, scotophobia or lygophobia (these are all fancy Greek names for the fear of the dark) teach your child (or yourself) to calm down by talking. By saying out loud a phrase such as "It is going to be okay" or "The dark itself cannot harm me" you can progressively train their brain (or your brain) out of its panic response.

Thirdly, find ways to enjoy the dark. Take your kids outside to star gaze. Use candle light during bath times. Play torch tag. Have some fun in the dark and it might just become their (I mean your) playmate.

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