Bad dreams and children: Should you be concerned?

It can be tough for parents trying to console a child who has had a bad dream. He or she might be frightened or sad about the events in the dream, startled to be jostled from sleep by upsetting images, and confused about whether the scary images from the dream are real or imagined. While some mildly bad dreams can be soothed away easily, it can be pretty heartbreaking to see your little one very scared and upset by more vivid imaginings.

But after you’ve calmed down your child, should you continue to be worried about your child’s nightmares?

If it’s only happening occasionally, there’s actually not much cause for concern, according to the San Antonio pediatrics page on the Christus Santa Rosa Health System website.

The same goes for night terrors. Night terrors are identified by a child thrashing about and perhaps even screaming in sleep, but having no recollection of the night terror upon waking, according to Denver pediatrics experts from Children’s Hospital Colorado. These occur within the first few hours of sleep, when your child is sleeping deeply. He or she will not respond to attempts to wake or console them, so it’s best to just wait it out.

Infrequent nightmares -- and even night terrors -- are actually quite common for kids age 10 and younger. Steps parents can take to help keep nightmares and night terrors at bay include making sure the child gets enough rest, devising a calming bedtime routine, avoiding scary movies and videogames close to bedtime, using a nightlight and providing the child with his or her favorite comforting item, like a stuffed animal or blanket, according to Christus Santa Rosa.

If you’re concerned about frequently recurring dreams or night terrors, be sure to talk to your pediatrician. At the root of these regular dreams or night terrors may be an anxiety or fear that requires attention from a medical professional. Learn more about proper sleep habits and the dangers of a lack of sleep with the How Much Sleep Should Your Child Be Getting? infographic.


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