Q. My grandson is afraid of dark at night after a dental surgery. Please help.

Answered by
Dr. Suresh Kumar G D
and medically reviewed by Dr. Nithila A

Hello doctor,

The 5-year-old boy weighs 80 pounds and is 4 ft tall. Takes inhalers for asthma. Had dental surgery a month ago and since then refuses to sleep in his bed. He had to be sedated to be anesthetized and during surgery stopped breathing briefly. He had to be sedated again after he woke up from surgery because he started lashing out and hitting everyone around him.

Ever since then he throws a huge tantrum when it is bedtime and claims to be scared of the dark but only at night. He will play in his darkroom in the early morning. Not sure how to help him. I am his grandparent. His mother is ill with psoriatic arthritis and potentially may have cancer and has very little energy.

Dr. Suresh Kumar G D

Child Health Paediatrics Psychiatry


Welcome to icliniq.com.

Your boy was likely frightened by the anesthetic experience while having dental surgery a month ago. As the boy's grandparents, continue to support him as he will gradually overcome the fear of dark and will be able to sleep in his own bed again. Apart from this specific fear, is he otherwise ok? Is he worried about his mother's health? Have you spoken to the young boy's parents about his recent fear of dark and anxiety sleeping alone? You can try some strategies to alleviate his fear to an extent.

1) You can leave a small light switched on his bedroom or leave his door slightly open with the light switched on in the corridor.

2) Read some gentle bedtime stories. Perhaps a bit more time can be spent than usual for a few weeks to allow him to settle back to normal.

3) Avoid watching TV or computer atleast an hour before bedtime.

4) Stick to the usual sleep routine. Boundaries need to be firm regarding bedtime.

5) Encourage him to lots of play activities during the day and let him have fun with his peers.

6) He can take a comfort toy and object to his bed with him to contain his anxiety.

If these measures are not helpful, you can consult with the boy's pediatrician to screen for any other anxieties or sleep issues. I hope this helps.

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