September 13, 2017


Hi Nikki,

I get scared whenever it’s dark. It’s been a real problem for me whenever I have sleepovers with my friends. Whenever I freak out, I can’t run to my parents so that they can calm me down, but I can’t wake up my friends either, since it would be SO embarrassing for them to find out that I get scared like a big baby. So, I just stay up all night since I can’t fall asleep, and then I get cranky because I’m tired. I’m not sure how to get over this. Please help!!

Scaredy Cat

Hi Scaredy Cat,

Oh, this sounds tough! The most important thing here is there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing weird about being afraid, no matter how old you are!

I get why you think you should be brave. But look at it another way. When you were younger, you just had a general sense of bad stuff that could be out there. But now that you’re older, you see the news, you read books, you watch TV and movies, and you have a stronger understanding of the real dangers that can be out there in the world. From TV and movies, you even have visual images that can be super hard to get out of your brain once they’re in there!

So it makes sense that, as you get older, you have a lot more to be afraid of and naturally, you get scared. PLUS a lot of people get more anxious when puberty sets in. Unfortunately, raging hormones can make the anxiety worse, which is totally crummy! But, at least it helps to know why you feel a certain way, right?

And, the other thing about nighttime is that when it gets quiet and dark, you don’t have any distractions to keep your mind busy, like you do during the day. So your mind starts wandering into the dark alleys where scary things happen.

A few suggestions, whether you’re at home or at a friend’s house:

  1. Try to limit the amount of violent/scary/suspenseful stuff you watch or read. Especially close to bedtime, but really any time! If you’re at a friend’s house, you don’t have to say you’re scared to watch that horror movie. Just say you’re in the mood to watch a super-funny movie and laugh!
  2. Keep a flashlight handy. At home, you can have a nightlight. But at someone else’s house, I get that you might feel weird bringing a nightlight. So keep a flashlight handy, or get a flashlight app on your phone. Unfamiliar houses can be extra spooky in the dark, so be prepared!
  3. Listen to something as you fall asleep. If you use ear buds, people don’t even have to know you’re doing it. And even if they do, there’s nothing unusual about listening to music as you go to sleep. But it doesn’t have to be music. It could also be sleep meditation, or an audiobook. Either way, it should be something that keeps your mind from wandering and soothes you.

When you’re at home, like I mentioned above, use a nightlight. There’s no shame in that. The other thing is that if you have a pet, consider letting it sleep in your bedroom with you. It’s amazing how much comfort an animal can be!

And look, if you’re REALLY freaked out, don’t be afraid to wake your friends up. Would you want one of your BFFs sitting up alone and scared when she’s sleeping over at your house? Of course not! You’d want to be there for her. Just wake them up and tell them you’re spooked. If they’re really your BFFs, they’ll understand and will help you calm down. I promise! 🙂

How do you handle it when you’re afraid at night? How about if you’re sleeping over at someone else’s house? Tell us in the comments!