6 Ways to Help Children Cope with Nightmares

sleeping girlIt might sound a little questionable, but it’s true: nightmares, even though they frighten our little ones, can help us analyze our children. That sounds awful, yes, but it’s kind of like making lemonade out of lemons. This breakdown should help make sense out of it.

The Nightmare

First of all, let’s define what a nightmare is. Psychologist Dr. Wendy Walsh explains that a nightmare is a function of the mind that happens during the REM cycle of sleep. Crying and moving during a nightmare is minimal to none, but upon waking, the frightening event is unfortunately remembered, which is why it‘s so scary.

Nightmares can help us analyze our children.

REM in Relation to Dreams

During sleep, the body rests; however, the brain remains unbelievably busy as it switches through different sleep cycles. A Kid’s Health article, reviewed by Mary L. Gavin, MD, explained that the longer one stays asleep, the more sleep cycles the brain goes through, and with every cycle it goes through, the REM cycle lasts longer. This explains why dreams seem more vivid if we happen to wake during this cycle, making a bad dream just as memorable as a much-preferred good one.

Preventing Nightmare Triggers

Bad dreams are inevitable at some point, because there will always be something upsetting to triggers one. It is difficult to place blame any one specific cause, because everyone is different, but here are some common triggers:

  • Stress
  • New experiences
  • Illness
  • Seeing something unsettling
  • Sleep deprivation

Taking care to make your child’s environment stress-free will help keep the bad dreams at bay. So, throughout the day, especially before bedtime, keep these tips in mind:

  • Use soothing music
  • Avoid upsetting images on the television
  • Make sure he gets the proper amount of sleep, which is 11 to 13 hours for preschoolers.
  • Use night-lights
  • Keep her room cool and comfortable

Making Sense Out of Nightmares

When children experience a nightmare, it’s going to be upsetting. But this is where, as previously stated, bad dreams have the potential to help them make sense out of something. Sometimes dreams are the brain’s intuitive way of working out things that lay heavy on our minds. So, in the event of a disturbing nightmare, you can help dissipate your child’s fears by following some of these exercises:

  • Comfort your child and soothe his fears by reassuring him that his dreams offer no realistic danger.
  • Encourage your child to imagine an alternate, happier ending to the dream.
  • Talk about the nightmare, and decipher the difference between dreams and reality.
  • Together, try to find what caused the bad dream in the first place, and then eliminate it.
  • Have your child fashion a comic strip about her dream.
  • Consider seeking advice from your child’s doctor if the nightmares become so intense that they inhibit your child to cope or reason it out.

{ MORE:  Nightmares and Night Terrors }

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Even though nightmares offer opportunities to help our children to work out things that do not make sense to them, keeping those bad dreams away is ideal. So, supply a flashlight, find a beautiful nightlight, keep recharging the atmosphere of glow-in-the-dark stars, keep telling them sweet bedtime stories, and keep this information in mind so when the nightmares do happen, you’ll be prepared to help your little kids conquer nighttime fears.

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6 Ways to Help Children Cope with Nightmares

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4 comments

  1. Lynette says:

    I will definitely use this . Because my daughter wakes up sometimes screaming at night

  2. keeping this in mind til when she gets older

  3. My daughter recently started “having nightmares” I hear about a new more elaborate one every morning and I think she is just making conversation which is fine with me because at least she is using her imagination

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