7 Ways to Handle Nightmares in Children

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Just like adults, children can sometimes work out confusing or difficult emotions and experiences through dreaming. Nightmares at this age are quite common and can occur for children of all ages.

Read More: 11 Effective Ways to Prevent Night Terrors in Toddlers

In this article:

When Do Nightmares Happen?
What Causes Nightmares?
Tips to Encourage Sweet Dreams and Good Sleep
Top 7 Ways to Prevent Nightmares

When Do Nightmares Happen?

Nightmares are vividly realistic, disturbing dreams that knock you awake from a deep sleep. They often set your heart pounding from fear. They usually tend to occur most often during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when the most dreaming takes place.

nightmares in children

What Causes Nightmares?

Nightmares can happen for no reason although they sometimes appear to originate from your child seeing or hearing something that upset them. The exact reasons why nightmares occur is unknown. In some cases, nightmares may be caused by traumatic experiences.

Read More: 11 Effective Ways to Handle Night Terror in Children

Tips to Encourage Sweet Dreams and Good Sleep

Avoid Scary Content

The majority of nightmares in kids are caused by disturbing visuals seen on the TV or online, such as ads about horror films or creepy dolls, that get stuck in the minds of kids. Keep your child away from scary TV shows, videos, ads or stories that may add to their fears.

Use a Nightlight

No matter what your child seems to be afraid of, the presence of a night-light can help. Nightlights are fine as long as it does not prevent your child from falling asleep. Another thing to try is to leave their bedroom door open so that your child doesn’t feel isolated from the rest of the house.

Read More: Night Terrors in Children: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Give them a Comforting Item

Many kids have a certain comforting item—either a stuffed animal, a blanket or another soft item—that helps them get through the dark nights. Having a particular toy to comfort your baby can be a nice bedtime transition. And if your child has one already, let them know they can rely on their “friend” to keep them company and help them fall asleep soundly.

Top 7 Ways to Prevent Nightmares in Children

A child’s imagination is supposed to run wild when it comes to fantasy and play, but it can literally be a nightmare if their mind races at bedtime. Here’s how to ease their fears and get some good sleep:

Stick to a Calming Bedtime Routine

This is the best way to ease the stress and anxiety that cause nightmares in the first place. By skipping any potentially scary books or stories, providing a cheerful night-light and leaving the bedroom ajar can also help your baby sleep peacefully. It is best to try to avoid heavy snacking or a heavy meal (at least a couple of hours) before bedtime, since food can rev up your little one’s metabolism, activating their brain and potentially causing more nightmares.

Comfort, Cuddle and Reassure Your Baby

You should stay with your child for a short period of time following the nightmare. Most will still be tired and able to fall back to sleep and go back to sleep in their own beds. provide additional comfort by allowing your child to cuddle with their favorite soft toy or blanket throughout the night.  Keep reassuring your child that the home is safe and that you are there for them. Soothe your child and validate how they feel.

Make Your Child Write Down what Scares them

Encourage your baby to put what’s bothering them on a piece of paper or, alternatively, they could draw pictures of it. Once it’s down on paper, make them rip it up and throw it away. This act gives your child a chance to take their scary thoughts, toss them out and then they can replace them with something that makes your child happy.

Try Relaxation Methods

Trying some deep breathing before bedtime is very relaxing for both you and your child. Take a few minutes to practice some bedtime yoga and make it a part of the nightly routine. If not yoga, try other things like reading or coloring before going to bed. This is one of the best ways to avoid nightmares in children.

Praise them for Getting Through Such Terrifying Experiences

As your child gets older, encourage them to see a bad dream as something they can recover from themselves. You could use praise – such as: ‘You didn’t need me after your bad dream last night. You were able to settle down by yourself really well’.

Help them to not be Afraid of the Dark

Make nighttime seem fun and allow them to play entertaining games to reduce their anxieties about the dark. This is also one of the best ways to avoid nightmares in children.

Talk to Your Child about what’s Disturbing them

Try to determine what is scaring and stressing out your child. Identify what the stressors are and talk about these stressors and work with your child to reduce them. Try doing this during the day to minimize their fear of their nightmares.

Conquering night frights can be a bit of a task, but it’s necessary in order to get back on an uninterrupted sleep track and good for their health.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065259/

https://www.parents.com/kids/sleep/issues/nightmares-6-steps-to-stop-scary-dreams/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/nightmare.html

https://www.parenting.com/toddler/7-ways-to-calm-your-childs-nightmares-more-tranquil-nights/

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