Of all the age groups, children between the ages of three to eight experience the most nightmares. Children may experience nightmares because of stress, worry, recent changes, or any kind of trauma. The fact that dreams frequently arise at random and without reason may be the most frustrating aspect. Unfortunately, once they appear, your child can no longer sleep through the night because the mere mention of a nightmare will make them more stressed and anxious. The vicious loop then starts.
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to completely stop having nightmares, but there are some things you can do to reduce their frequency.
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1. Avoid Getting Tired
Kids who stay up far later than the norm have a harder time falling and staying asleep. Although night terrors and nightmares are not the same things, overtired children also frequently have night terrors.
Trying to avoid the dreaded overtired may be the sleep aid your child needs to avoid nightmares. The first step to having a pleasant night is having routines, bedtimes, and regular naptimes. To help your child wind down and prepare for sound sleep, try including calming activities like a warm bath, calming music, and lots of cuddles, tales, and songs before bed.
2. Give Them a Stuffie
When nightmares are occurring, introducing a plush animal can help reduce their frequency. Some stuffed animals even have a brief nightlight feature that might help chase away unsettling shadows. A new stuffed animal can provide your child comfort and confidence even without a nightlight feature, which can help them go to sleep again fast.
3. Use Relaxation Techniques
Even if your child isn’t currently having nightmares, it’s still a good idea to practice self-calming strategies throughout the day. You may assist your child to develop muscle memory and other self-soothing techniques for when nightmares wake him up at night by having him practice during the day.
4. Talk About It During The Day
Even though you might be tempted to describe the nightmares as they happen, it will benefit your child more if you wait until the next day. It is simpler to talk about scary things while it is bright outside since there isn’t the additional worry and complexity that comes with midnight hours. The remedies also tend to be more logical and realistic during the day because there is some time between the nightmare and the discourse about it.
5. Alter The Ending
Harvard Medical School advises rewriting your child’s nightmare’s conclusion together, especially if the dream keeps happening. Discuss the dream with your child during the day and come up with a better, happy conclusion together. For instance, what appears to be a growling dog trying to attack you may be a cuddly rabbit. Talking through the revised conclusion just before bed can help reduce the stress that otherwise might trigger the nightmare.
6. Utilize a Nightlight
The ideal sleeping environment is quite dark, but if your child is having trouble falling asleep because of nightmares, a nightlight may help. Look for a nightlight that is touch- or sound-activated or that has a timer if you don’t want it to stay on all night.
7. Validate Their Feelings, But Not Their Fears
Possibly the best thing you can do for your child who experiences nightmares is to acknowledge and validate their feelings. Spend some time with your child instead, allowing them to express their emotions without confirming their concerns. Use language like “What a terrifying dream that must have been. I’m sorry you felt anxious.” and “If you need me, I’m close by.” Refusing to discuss frightful topics might make those things seem much more real and dreadful to a child.
Although nightmares are a common part of life, they can be extremely upsetting for both the individual having the nightmare and the person who was startled awake by it. There isn’t a foolproof technique to stop them, but you can take a few daily steps to reduce their frequency.