As Autumn draws in the evenings are getting dark which can upset children.Waking in the middle of the night from a bad dream can be very frightening for children. Nightmares, although a perfectly normal part of childhood, are nonetheless scary for youngsters and if they become habitual, can be unsettling for their parents, as well.

What is Normal?

Studies show that as many as 40% of children between the ages of 5-12 experience occasional nightmares, and night terrors, more disturbing types of episodes, are seen in up to 4% of children in that age category. Nightmares can begin as early as two years, but they typically peak in frequency a few years later. In children who do experience nightmares, they sometimes happen on a weekly basis. So, restless sleep from scary dreams is quite natural in childhood.

Nightmares vs. Night Terrors

Both nightmares and night terrors can be frightening, but there are distinctive differences between the two. Nightmares are simply scary dreams which typically occur during a light stage of sleep. Children experiencing a nightmare will often call out for their parents or will get out of bed to go to them. Usually, the child is able to recall the dream, which gives parents the opportunity to help calm the child’s fears.

Night terrors, on the other hand, are experienced in NREM,  and frequently, a child will not fully wake when in the midst of one, instead appearing frightened and disoriented, but is probably still asleep. It’s frightening as your child may scream Upon awakening, a child usually cannot recall experiencing a night terror. They may last for several weeks. We don’t actually know why children experience these, it could be a fever or emotional events but ensure that child is getting enough DEEP sleep.

What do They Mean?

Sometimes, getting to the bottom of your child’s nightmares is fairly simple. If there has been some recent turmoil in their life, such as a move, a death in the family, or a divorce, it is not uncommon for a child to work through some of their fears and emotions during sleep. Typically, a child will have a dramatic decrease in nightmares within about six months after such an event. Scary movies can bring on nightmares for some children – if your child is sensitive in nature, you may want to limit watching scary television programmes or books. Remember children have a fantastic vivid imagination.

What’s the best way for managing a Night Terror?

  • There is no treatment as such, sometimes waking them 15 minutes before it occurs may help.
  • Ensure that the upstairs is safe, your child may sleep walk so putting up a stair gate may be helpful.
  • Don’t wake them up, stay calm and gently be with them for the duration of the nightmare, Once they are awake you can bring them to toilet if they need too.
  • Children use play to master their emotions so you on how to use play to de-stress your child. Please ensure that your child is getting enough deep sleep, go to my sleep consultation page for free video’s and downloads.
  •  Remember they are normal and most children grow out of them.

I hope it helps and if you have any sleep difficulties, contact me for a sleep consultation. With Love Catherine

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