How To Stop Nightmares In Children

Nightmares can pose a problem for the entire household. Suggestions are given as to how to empower the child and how to encourage restful sleeping.

Many parents look forward to the time of day when the house is quiet, and the children are asleep. After all, their arms are free, they can hear music or watch an entire sitcom on television, or even read an enthralling book!

Unfortunately, this possibility does not exist in every household. In fact, some parents dread the time of day when their children are put to bed, as they know that soon after 'things that go bump in the night,' as Thurber once wrote, are about to ensue.

Parents in these households report that their children initially appear to fall asleep in a normal way; however, in as little as one hour, the child wakes up screaming, calling out and may have even wet the bed in fright. No rocking, soothing words or change in bedtime routine seems to alleviate the sometimes nightly trauma.

As a consequence, the parents and children face each day not fully rested and frustrated that once again no one knows what to do or to handle feelings of resentment and vulnerability. Additionally, the child in question also has an enormous coiffure filled with fear of sleeping. He/she may also add another symptom, bedtime resistance, due to displacing his/her fear not onto dreaming but onto sleep in general. Therefore, more tension builds within the household.

This article attempts to provide tips for parents to be able to help the child reframe his/her experience to prevent a sense of feeling doomed each evening. In addition, suggestions are made to encourage interventions that might stop nightmares from occurring. Finally, if the suggestions are not fruitful, suggestions are made as to how to seek further help.

Many children who experience nightmares have a genetic predisposition to having some type of sleep disturbance. If this is true in your family tree, in that you or othe family members a recall having had frequent nightmares in childhood, sleep walking habits as well as unusual talk or activity during sleep times, it may be wise to seek medical attention and to tell the physician of the family history. Many areas across the country have sleep clinics that research these activities and can help provide tips, surgeries or medications that can eliminate or improve the issue. However, it is best to seek the advice of a pediatrician or family physician, as many of these clinics require a physician's referral to their facility.



On the other hand, many parents report that they simply would like a list of Do's and Don'ts that might encourage a reduction or disappearance in symptoms. The following illustrate tips for helping your child surmount his/her symptoms.

Nightmares occur during a light sleeping stage of sleep. The brain flows through different stages during sleep, some of which are deeper than others. The stage of dreaming usually appears during the lighter stages of sleep and are, in essence, a gateway to other deeper stages. This lighter stage is also why some people have difficulty recalling their dreams, as, in their case, they may have a small window of opportunity for dreaming. Unfortunately, for children who have nightmares, their stage may last longer than their peers and may appear more frequently, or even, prevent other stages from ensuing.

Parents can empower their child to view sleeping in a different, more constructive manner. Explaining to the child that he/she can manipulate what happens in the dream is one way of improving the outcome of a nightmare. For instance, many adults and children do not realize that they can talk over the events in the nightmare. Encouraging the child to tell the monster or 'bad guy' to go away or asking the child to ask why he/she keeps returning can put more control into the child's dream life.

Moreover, establishing a bedtime routine that includes visualization as well as steps that encourage calming and sleep inducing measures are other ways to induce more restful sleep. Some children are better able than others at falling asleep quickly. A child should be give 3-5 steps that will teach the brain that when these steps are made, sleep is not far behind. Such routines can include a nutritious snack that involves a protein and a complex carbohydrate to make certain that blood sugar levels can stabilize throughout the night. Additionally , reading quietly or listening to soothing music also help to calm a child's brain waves.

As for visualization, a family would serve the sleep routine well by encouraging the child to tell a story aloud that involves the nightmare theme. Each family member can relate a different ending that illustrates the child surmounting the obstacle in a typical nightmare that the child has. In essence, all are helping the child to build alternatitives toward reworking the dream sequence. The messages may have a subliminal effect of encouraging further, deeper stages of sleep if the child understands that different outcomes are within his/her reach. In this way, the child also feels less isolated in that he is accessing help from other family members.

A word of caution is needed. A child should not be shamed if relapses toward progress occur. Instead, a child should be affirmed that a relapse does not represent failure on his/her part. In fact, parents need to make certain that something during waking hours is not provoking the nightmares at night. Sometimes, it is difficult to see the forrest for the trees. In this case, it may be important to ask the child, if something or someone is hurting or touching them inappropriately during the day or if a traumatic experience may be the reason he/she continues to have nightmares. Similarly, ask if everything is going well during times you as a parent are not present. In essence, a parent needs to rule out traumatic experiences if interventions do not seem to improve the sleep cycles.

As a parent, it is necessary that you not enable the waking up in the middle of the night. For example, Do not offer to bring the child a drink of water. Instead, set out the evening before, a glass of water that is not even filled halfway. after all, a child does not need a great deal of water to slake a late night thirst. Additionally, encourage the child to go to the bathroom on his own. In this regard, a night light is not necessary and even may send the message to the child that darkness is something to fear. However, some parents live in dwellings where the bathroom is not easily accessible and a night light may be neceassry. However, parents should encourage the child to 'make friends with' the dark, their room, the space underneath the bed, in order to empower a sense of control on the child's part.

In conclusion, nightmares, sleep walking and talking should be monitored by parents as they may indicate a neurological issue. Some parents have found it helpful to videotape via a camcorder, the sleep disturbances of the child. This recording can be beneficial for doctors to pinpoint the root of the disturbance. At all costs, relate to the child that, as a parent, you are concerned and willing to work with them in resolving the issue.

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