Child Nightmare Solutions

Dr. Anbar of Center Point Medicineโ€™s Tips for Parents

By Courtney Daly-Pavone February 21, 2020

*This article is a 3 minute read.

Does Your Child Suffer From Recurrent Nightmares?

Recurrent nightmares in children can have many causes: stress, lack of sleep, a fever, bullying, or trouble at home. According to Dr. Ran Anbar, a pediatrician who teaches hypnosis and provides counseling to improve the mental health of children, "If a child dreams the same nightmare over and over again typically there is a message that the subconscious is trying to convey to the child, or an issue that the mind is working on resolving through the nightmare."  

Some children even experience recurrent nightmares after viewing scary programs on TV or online. I spoke to Dr. Anbar about treating recurrent nightmares in children. 

MACARONI KID: When should parents be concerned?

DR. RAN ANBAR: If the nightmares cause children to wake up frequently and cause fears about going to sleep (at the regular bedtime, or in the middle of the night after a nightmare) they can lead to the child being tired throughout the day.  In turn, such fatigue can lead to the development of anxiety,  or affect school performance including through intensifying children's difficulties with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

What are some of the most common nightmares children have?

Common nightmares for children include images of scary animals, monsters, ghosts, crawling bugs, toys coming to life, being chased, being left alone, falling, and being made fun of.

Should parents co-sleep with young kids after a nightmare?

Some children have a difficult time falling back asleep after a nightmare.  In that case, sleeping with their parents can be helpful.  However, if children deal with recurrent nightmares, it is important to teach them to become calm in their own beds so that they do not develop the habit of having to sleep with their parents in order to fall back asleep.

How can they help kids go back to sleep?

Parents can sing a calming song, or read a calming story to help their child go back to sleep.  They can also reassure their child that they are safe, and can deal with another nightmare by using imagery to counteract the scary dreams, such as a Superhero who can accompany them in their dreams.

Are night lights helpful?

Yes, especially if a child is afraid of the dark or things that can lurk in the dark.

What about rituals like sprinkling Boogey Man dust?

Boogey Man dust or Monster Spray (applied liberally around the child's room including in the closet and under the bed), can be very helpful to keep fears away.  A recipe for home made Monster Spray that the child can help make is:  Take one cup of boiled water (once it's cooled off), add a 1/4 teaspoon of salt, add a teaspoon of lemon juice, add a sprinkle of cinnamon, and 3 drops of lavender.  Mix well.  Put the Monster Spray into a plastic spray bottle with a nozzle, and let the child spray it in their room.

Should parents ever dismiss their children's nightmares?

No.   Dismissing a nightmare is disrespectful of the child and can cause the child to become less communicative.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Nightmares should not be confused with night terrors.  Night terrors typically occur in children between the ages of 3 and 10, and are sleep states in which children become very scared or terrified but without an associated nightmare.  Children with night terrors have no memory of the events when they awaken.

If nightmares are affecting your child's life in a big way, consider consulting with a sleep specialist, psychologist, or clinician specializing in using hypnosis with children.

To Connect With Dr. Anbar Visit: 

Center Point Medicine

3252 Holiday Court, Suite 113, La Jolla, CA 92037

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