Toddlers Nightmares or Night Terrors?

Toddlers Nightmares or Night Terrors?


What is a Nightmare?

If you child is a “good sleeper” and suddenly wakes up crying, and is clingy, scared and has trouble going

back to sleep, she may be having a nightmare. Usually it happens in the second half of the night, when

dreaming is most likely to occur.

Baby Night Terrors

Why nightmares happen

Toddler’s nightmares are more likely linked to something that happened just before bed, like listening to

a story that scared him or watching an upsetting show. Separation anxiety in some toddlers, being sick

or being away from a parent for s stretch of time can be a cause for nightmares.


Do not blame yourself since nightmares are not linked to emotional problems. An occasional bad dream

is normal for young children.


You can help you child after a nightmare by holding her, rubbing her neck until she calms down and

giving her a favorited stuffed animal to sleep with her. Check that the night light is on and keep her

bedroom door open. If you bring your child into bed with you to comfort her, you may be aware you be

creating a habit that is hard to reverse.


Preventing nightmares by having a routine before bedtime not fool proof but can work in many

instances. A warm bath, a calming story, and a quiet song, can ward off night mares. Your child’s room

temperature should be at around 65 degrees suggested by the National Sleep Foundation. Too much

light is disturbing for a child.


If your child’s nightmares persist or if he becomes extremely afraid of going to bed, talk to your doctor

or health visitor. If anything specific is triggering these nightmares they most likely will help you work

through it with her/him.


I had to call one of my Baby Power parents one evening, and the Dad answered the phone. I asked for

the mother and he said “Hold on, I have to change places with my wife. She is laying on the floor in the

hallway so our son (in his crib) can see her head.” I had to stifle a laugh- he was so serious.

So folks, you are not alone in the separation anxiety group!!


What are Night Terrors?

A Night Terror is a sleep disruptions that seems similar to a nightmare. Night Terrors happen during

deep non-REM sleep. They are not technically a dream but more like a sudden reaction of fear that

happens during the transition from one sleep phase to another.


Night Terrors usually occur about 2 -3 hours after a child falls asleep. The transition from a non rem

stage is usually a smooth one but rarely, a child becomes agitated and frightened- and that fear reaction

is a night terror. The child remains sound asleep while having a night terror.


During a night terror, a child might sit upright in bed and scream or shout out in distress. Their breathing

and heart rate may be faster, or her may sweat, thrash about and act upset. After a few minutes the

child calms down and goes back to sleep. A child will have no memory of a night terror, unlike

nightmare. Night Terrors are not usually a cause for concern or a sign of a deeper medical issue. They

will be inconsolable no matter what you try. The child will have no memory of the night terror in the


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