Most children awake with nightmares and then are worried about going back to sleep. Nightmares happen during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This is a stage that occurs late in the night during the last 1/3 of sleep time.
Nightmares do not occur in adults as often as they do in children. This is because children are taking in new experiences and information much more quickly. Adults are more likely to experience bad dreams or just waking up in the middle of the night.
Nightmares are a normal thing for children to go through. They are a reflection of the many difficult things that kids have to go through. Most of the time nightmares reflect a child’s developing fears of things like spiders or dinosaurs, starting a new school or trying to understand a new problem in life.
There are many things that can cause kids to have nightmares which are outside the realm of normal. Violence on TV, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), sickness (such as flu), Medicinal side effects and a stressful family life.
Children normally start having nightmares from about 6 months of age. Younger children might nightmare about things such as going to preschool and being separated from their parents for such a long time. Older children might nightmare over more serious things like death or real dangers.
When a child awakens from a nightmare they are normally completely aware of their surroundings and conscious. It is likely that they will be very confused and scared. This can be very stressful for you, as parents, and the child.
As with anything, there is a tipping point when you should be worried and when to just ride out the storm. If your child shows any of these signs then Helene Goldnadel suggests you to consider talking to your family doctor or psychologist:
- If there is a large amount of stress in your family
- Your child drools, jerks or stiffens up. This could be seizures.
- Your child’s anxiety seems to be increasing.
- If your child goes through a traumatic experience and is still having nightmares plus post traumatic stress symptoms.
- The nightmares start to interfere with daily life and cause a disruption of sleep consistently.
- The nightmares seem to be increasingly terrible and happening more frequently.
There are many homeopathic and prescription medications that can help your child deal with his/her nightmares. Check with your family doctor or naturopath to find out what solution might be best for your specific situation.
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