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How Do I Stop My Child From Having Nightmares & Are Night Terrors A Sign Of Mental Illness?

Sleep is extremely crucial to growth and development in children. However, most children have common problems such as nightmares, sleep terrors and other sleep problems. These problems can range from occasional inconveniences to full-blown disorder affecting the quality of life not only for themselves instead of their loved ones as well.

According to a new study, it is estimated that children who suffer from recurring nightmares and sleep terrors are most likely to face illusions and hallucinations in their latter part of their lifetime. Also, the study states the children in the age group of 2 and 9 are frequently suffering from sleep disorders. This condition is most likely related to future psychotic symptoms.

How Do I Stop My Child From Having Nightmares?

There are several measures you can adopt to help your child reduce the likelihood of the nightmares.

  • Be Understanding – If the child has a bad dream, it is natural to tell them as a parent,” It’s not real, go back to bed”. Nevertheless, it is not going to help them. Instead, listen to them, understand their feelings and validate how they feel. Slowly you can make them understand that it is imaginary.
  • Have fun in the dark- Start playing fun games in the dark so they are no longer afraid of the dark.
  • Avoid scary television shows that may add to their fears
  • Encourage your kid to follow appropriate behavior such as no crying in the night and calling them at bedtime
  • Comfort, cuddle and reassure your child when they need your comfort. Reassure that home is the safest place and you are there for security.4. 5

What Causes A Nightmare In Children?

Nightmares in children typically start during the preschool years when the children start developing a feeling of fear. Besides, this is the time when the child imagination is hyperactive. There is no exact reason for the occurrence of a nightmare, but your child can have when he or she is too tired of their routine and not getting enough sleep, undergoing stress or anxiety due to peer pressure, and few other reasons.

In some instances, it happens when you move to a new neighborhood, change to a different school with a different friend’s circle and living through a family divorce or remarriage. Medical studies show that nightmares occur due to hereditary and also associate them with physical and mental illness.3

Are Night Terrors A Sign Of Mental Illness?

There are several sleep disorders when it comes to children. The typical screening tool used by the pediatrician is BEARS that is related to questions such as bedtime problems, excessive sleeping pattern during the day, awakening times during the night, regularity & duration of the sleep and snoring.

Having recurrent night terrors is an early warning of something serious even a psychotic disorder. Therefore, researchers are trying to find ways to detect early signs of mental illness because it is estimated that around 47 in every 1000 children are detected with this problem. Night terrors occur at specific points during the sleep cycle and can be managed by momentarily waking the child.

Researchers believe that this study is a very vital trial since this can help early diagnosis of symptoms of mental illness and help the thousands of children that suffer. When treated early, it will prevent mental illness when they attain their childhood stage. When an individual has night terror, they wake up from sleep and:

  • Appear scared
  • Stare wide-eyed
  • Kick and thrash
  • Rapid breathing
  • Racing heart1. 2


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 25, 2021

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