Nightmares and night fears in children are not dangerous, although many caregivers break their hearts when they affect their children. Crying and throwing a baby while sleeping makes it difficult for the whole family to rest. That is why it’s worth taking steps to help your child overcome these disorders. Night anxiety and nightmares are not the same – what is the difference and how to deal with them? Long-term and regular psychotherapy usually brings the expected and positive results. After some time, the patient stops experiencing anxiety as much as before, and even completely deprives himself of attacks.
Nightmares and anxiety in children at night
Night anxiety in children is manifested by sudden crying, screaming, moaning, fidgeting in bed and accelerated breathing. Sometimes parents notice that the toddler has his eyes open, and yet he isn’t fully aware of what is happening around him, it’s impossible to wake him up. He doesn’t respond to what is said to him, he doesn’t act rationally.
Such an anxiety attack usually lasts from a few to several dozen minutes. After that, the child can fall asleep immediately and often doesn’t remember that he had an attack at night. Nightmares, wake them up.
Children remember what they dreamed and they calm down usually when an adult is with them. They often don’t want to fall asleep again when they are to be alone or when it’s completely dark. Nightmares occur during the REM phase (in the second half of the night), and night fears soon after falling asleep.
A child who has nightmares is usually restless in the morning. In the case of night anxiety, parents who witnessed a seizure tend to be more nervous.
Causes of night fears
Because the causes of Night terrors aren’t fully known, it’s difficult to prevent them. It’s certain, however, that they don’t indicate any irregularities in development. However, the factors that favor their appearance are:
- baby sleeplessness,
- high fever,
- use of certain medications or caffeine.
Nocturnal anxiety affects more often children whose parents sleepwalking or suffering (or suffered) for sleep disorders. It’s also worth paying attention to whether the toddler has sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease, because they can disturb the sleep process.
Night fears in children – how to help?
If your child has a nighttime anxiety attack, it may – although it may seem very difficult – wait and calmly talk to the toddler. If the touch reacts with aggression, don’t force it or hug. To relieve night fears, you can limit your child’s time spent in front of the tablet, cell phone or TV screen, especially at bedtime.
Not only screens are able to regulate the secretion of melatonin (sleep hormone), but inappropriate content can also cause anxiety. It’s also worth introducing silencing rituals: bathing at a regular time, reading books, falling asleep near a parent or in the soft light of a lamp. Specialists also advise that about 15 minutes before the time, which usually occurs at night anxiety, slightly wake up the baby. The child stops fidgeting, his breathing normalizes, and the sleep phase changes – sometimes that’s enough.
Causes of nightmares in children
Some recommendations for dealing with Night terrors can also be applied to those babies who often have nightmares. Nightmares can result from:
- experiences that the child experienced during the day,
- watching cartoons and films not always matched to the child’s age.
Children tormented by bad nightmares, also feel anxious before falling asleep, explaining to their parents that the monsters live in the closet or under the bed. The ban on watching TV before bedtime, a warm bath or reading fairy tales allow for a peaceful sleep.
A cuddly toy can also be useful: a doll, a bear or another beloved toy that a child can always have with him, as well as a lamp or projector that will light the room gently. If, despite this, the nightmare wakes up the baby, don’t leave theme alone – let’s sit with them until they falls asleep.