My child has bad dreams and wakes up
Being consistent will increase your chances of success with improving your child’s sleep patterns. It is important to stick to good sleep habits, even on weekends and holidays, otherwise your child’s sleep patterns can get confused.
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Nightmares and Night Terrors
Nightmares are frightening dreams that usually wake your child. In a night terror your child suddenly becomes agitated, perhaps crying or screaming, looking panicked, sweating and inconsolable – however, this does not usually wake your child. Although they seem similar, there are differences in why they happen and how best to manage them.
Nightmares vs night terrors
They are both common in children and usually don’t mean anything is wrong. They are more likely to happen if your child is sick or overtired.
- Nightmares are frightening dreams that usually wake your child.
- Usually happen after midnight.
- Remembered next morning in light sleep.
- Your child wakes up fully.
- Your child may be upset and want to be comforted.
- From a deep sleep, your child suddenly becomes agitated perhaps crying, looking panicked, sweating and inconsolable.
- Usually happen before midnight.
- Not remembered next morning.
- Between deep & light sleep cycles.
- Your child’s body is awake but their mind is not.
- Your child may be inconsolable, not responding to soothing or comforting.
Managing night terrors
Night terrors are scary to watch but usually harmless to children!
- Keep your child safe: The most important thing to do when your child has a night terror is to keep your child safe. Make sure that all outside doors and windows are secure, that all doors and gates are locked and that areas such as stairs are blocked. Also, as your child may walk or run around during a night terror, clear away anything that they can step on or trip over.
- Do not wake your child: Generally, nothing is gained by trying to awaken a child during a night terror, and sometimes doing so can make a child more upset. Also, if they wake up completely you may have problems getting them back to sleep.
- Guide your child back to bed: To encourage return to normal sleep, guide your child gently back to bed. If they resist, let them remain where they are but do not leave your child.
- Try not to interfere too much: The normal response of parents is to try and comfort their child during a night terror. Try to resist doing this. Most children will just get more agitated. Remember, they will not even remember this event in the morning. However, if your child is about to come to harm be sure to keep them safe even if they fight you.
- Ensure enough sleep: Increase the amount of sleep that your child is getting and try to stop them getting over tired. Night terrors are much more likely to happen when your child does not get enough sleep.
- Maintain a regular bedtime: Night terrors are more likely to happen on nights when your child goes to sleep at a different time than usual. Therefore, stick to a set bedtime for your child, taking in to account the possible need for increased sleep.
- Do not discuss night terrors the next day: The morning after an event, do not make a point of discussing the episode with your child, as it is most likely they will not remember it. Discussing the event is likely to worry them. However, if on the rare occasion they do remember and bring it up, simply reassure them that they were safe and that you were looking after them.