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.
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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