Why Is My Child Having Nightmares?

A nightmare is a bad dream that awakes your child or teenager from sleep leaving them feel scared and anxious. 

What are nightmares? 

A nightmare is a bad dream that awakens you or your child from your sleep leaving you feeling scared or anxious. The nightmare usually has a disturbing or distressing theme, such as a dangerous or scary situation that evokes fear. It can be quite vivid and it can seem very real at times, which is why you wake up sweating or with your  heart pounding. Sometimes you might remember the details about your bad dream, making it difficult for you to fall back asleep again. 

What causes nightmares and why is my child having nightmares? 

No one knows what causes nightmares. There are things that can increase the risk of having a nightmare, such as not getting enough sleep, being too tired, your sleep routine being disturbed or irregular, or dealing with stress and anxiety. Although nightmares can occur at any age, they are more common in children aged between three and six. The occasional nightmare is nothing to be worried about and they are usually less frequent around the age of ten. If there is a family history of having nightmares, like an older sibling or a parent suffering from them, then there is a chance that your child would also experience nightmares. If your child is taking medication, then this can cause them to have bad dreams. Sometimes people experience nightmares after a traumatic event, which can be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are numerous things that can trigger a nightmare in a child. Both dreams and nightmares are a way for children to deal with thoughts and feelings regarding certain situations, such as switching to a new school, moving to a new house, conflict within the family, and even the birth of a sibling. If a child has a relatively vivid imagination, then a simple activity like reading a book or watching a film or TV show before bed can cause them to have a nightmare. 

How can you prevent nightmares from occurring? 

Essential oils 
A good way to improve sleep quality is by ensuring your child gets enough sleep on a regular basis. You can spray lavender extract on their pillow (our Dream Spray pillow sprays all have lavender as their main ingredient) to help them relax in bed and this is a good way to prevent nightmares. Lavender can also help improve slow-wave sleep and aids in muscle relaxation, meaning that your child will fall asleep easier and will have a good night’s sleep. If you child suffers from ADHD or Autism you can look into using specific oils to help them improve their sleep quality. Essential oils like these can either be sprayed on a pillow (with your Dram Spray) put into a diffuser, or applied with a roll-on. Which plants work best for a good night's sleep? 

Relaxation before bed 
If you would prefer to use other methods of helping your child sleep, you could look at their habits before bed. Instead of letting them watch TV before bedtime, you could put some relaxing music on in their room before they fall asleep. This will put their mind more at ease and would serve as a distraction from anything that is troubling them. 

Food and drink 
It is also important to look at your child’s diet. If they are having lots of sugary and caffeinated food and drink in the evening, it’s more likely that they will have a disturbed night’s sleep which will, in turn, cause them to be more susceptible to nightmares. To prevent this, have them just drink water in the run-up to their bedtime to ensure that they are nice and relaxed and ready for bed. We also recommend some sleepy super foods before bedtime, like bananas.

Regular sleep 

Another way of preventing poor sleep hygiene is to make sure your child has regular bedtimes and is woken up at the same time. This will help set a consistent sleep pattern. By doing this they will start to know when they need to go to sleep and will fall asleep more naturally and wake up feeling refreshed.

Parental reassurance 

As a parent, your child will be comforted by your presence. If you know they have disturbed sleep or frequent nightmares, you could try to put a monitor in their room. This way, you’d be able to hear when they are having bad dreams, and you will be able to gently wake them from their sleep and comfort them. By reassuring them, you would be helping them understand that what they experience was just a dream, and going forward they won’t find it as scary as once they have woken up they would know that they are in a safe place.

Lots of helpful tips!