Let’s talk nightmares and night terrors
You might find during this current time where our normal routines are out of the window your little ones are experiencing nightmares.
Children sometimes work out confusing or difficult feelings and experiences through their dreams.
Nightmares are your children trying to make sense of what is happening around them and they may be scared.
Nightmares occur in the second half of the night and are more common in children aged 3 to 6 years old.
Ways to help encourage sweet dreams.
Parents cannot prevent nightmares, but they can help their children to get a good night's sleep and this will encourage a sweet dream.
· Help them to feel calm and relaxed at bedtime so they can drift off to sleep.
· Have a regular bedtime and wake-up time
· Avoid scary films, TV shows, or stories before bed — especially any that have triggered nightmares before
· Tell them nightmares are not real, they are just dreaming, and dreams cannot hurt them
· Help them to go back to sleep in their own bed after a nightmare as this teaches them that their room is a safe place to sleep
· Do not reinforce the nightmare – there is no need to look under the beds for monsters as they do not exist.
· Try bedtime sweet talk- At bedtime you fill your little one’s mind with positive, wonderful acts of kindness they did that day. It builds their self –esteem and helps them relax into calm sleep. You can add on about the next day and how they can pick up all their cars again tomorrow.
· Help your child go back to sleep by offering something comforting, a favourite stuffed animal to hold, a blanket, mums jumper put on their pillow so it smells of mum, a nightlight, or a kiss to hold in the palm of their hand.
· Try telling them to help teddy to get back to sleep by cuddling him. It gives them something to focus on.
· Do not get into a long conversation about the nightmare in the early hours wait until the morning. Offer them chances to draw their scary dream, scary images can lose their power during the day. Help your child think up a new fun, ending to the scary dream.
For older children ask them during the day, what comes into their head at bedtime to stop them settling to sleep. It may help them to talk about their worries.
If your children are struggling with worries pop me an email and I can send an activity to share with your child on talking through any worries.
Night terrors occur shortly after going to sleep, normally before midnight.
They will last several minutes (rarely last longer than 10 minutes) and are common between the ages of 18 months and 8 years.
Parents often find night terrors very disturbing as their child appears to “wake up” in a state of terror, often with a wide-eyed frightened expression and sometimes screaming loudly.
They happen in deep sleep; the child is still asleep and unaware of its occurrence. Parents should not attempt to wake their child from a night terror as they are likely to be terribly upset if roused from this state.
Reasons why night terrors occur
Around 3% of children will experience night terrors Night terrors, so
A terror can be triggered by:
· Certain types of medication
· Excessive sugar intake
· high-dose vitamins at bedtime
· Or night terrors can run in families
How to help your little one during a night terror
1. The best thing to do is keep your child safe and wait until it passes.
2. Keep a regular bedtime and a relaxing calm down time before bed.
3. If they are regular, around the same time each night, try rousing (just make sure he is stirred so he mumbles or rolls over) 10 minutes before they usually occur to break the cycle. Try this for 2 weeks.
4. You could try putting to bed 15 minutes earlier and this may help with overtiredness.
5. Make sure your little one is physically safe during the episode.
6. Remain calm, it will pass, and you can then settle back down for sleep.
Understanding the key differences between nightmares and night terrors will help you to calmly restore your little ones back to restorative sleep.