Nightmares plague children from an early age and can lead to them not getting the necessary sleep that they need to adequately function during their waking hours. This is incredibly important since children’s minds and bodies are constantly in a state of growth; any impedance to that growth can throw their entire system off kilter completely. That is why taking the time to address nightmares and night terrors in a soothing manner with your child can empower them to deal with theses occurrences in a healthy way. Let’s identify the most common nightmares that children have and provide you with sleep solutions to keep your child from getting scared of going to sleep.
What is a Nightmare?
In short, nightmares are frightening dreams that cause dreamers to wake up suddenly. Most nightmares occur during an individual’s second sleep cycle when they get their rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When your child wakes up during their REM sleep, they can often tell you exactly what happened, giving you a very detailed account of the nightmare. Nightmares often come in the form of hallucinations that are accompanied by incoherent mumblings that your child might not recall having done after they wake up.
Nightmares can be especially troubling for children under age 3 as they do not yet have the ability to distinguish between reality and imagination. This can make the soothing process after a nightmare more difficult for parents who are tasked with soothing the child. Even after soothing, it can be difficult for children of this age to return to natural sleep that night due to their fear of the dream occurring again. Once your child hits 4 years of age, they can begin to tell the difference between dreams and reality, but they remain frightened of their surroundings. This is completely normal and shouldn’t be brushed under the rug.
The best way to solve nightmares is to configure a consistent bedtime routine that helps the soothe and relax their mind of fears prior to falling asleep. After a few nights of no nightmares, your child can become more empowered as they begin to understand that they have control over their mind and therefore control over their nightmares. Make it a habit to have your child refrain from watching TV, playing video games, etc. at least one hour prior to bed. Use this last hour as a time to “power down” your child’s mind and re-focus their attention on having some one-on-one time with them to take a warm bath, chat about their day and/or read a book that educates them about their nightmares. This allows your child to ground themselves rather than having them drift off to dreamland with their imagination still running at top speed.