Bad Dreams and Night Terrors with Young Children {Natural Living Blog Carnival}


Welcome to the February 2013 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Addressing Sleep Challenges.
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they address sleep challenges in their homes.


When your child starts to develop an imagination and gains fears, nightmares can be the result. Sometimes they can be more than just nightmares. They may be night terrors. If you find yourself trying to calm your child in the middle of a night terror it can be pretty scary. Learn how to recognize and cope with both nightmares and night terrors.


In other words, a bad dream. It can cause your child to become very frightened, sad and anxious. Nightmares seem to start bothering most children when they are three and four. It can be brought on by stress, an uncomfortable position, indigestion and/or fevers.

How to handle them:

The best way to handle your child’s nightmares is to be there for them. Talk with them. Take them seriously. It’s completely normal to go through this phase, so make sure they know they are not alone. I like to take the attachment parenting kind of approach. Comforting them with this now will not make them more dependent on you in the future. Remember, one day they will grow out of it and no longer need you!smiling-boy

Here are some ideas:

  • When they wake with a nightmare gentle touch and talking can be reassuring.
  • During the day you can have them express their fear with artwork.
  • Lead by example. Show your child they have nothing to be afraid of in their room or in the dark.
  • Create a “bad dream spray” or “monster spray” with water and essential oils. Spray it around the room before bed and at night if they wake.
  • Get a dream catcher! They always worked for me.
  • Try a night light.
  • Drink relaxing herbal tea before bed. My favorite is Children’s Traditional Medicinal Nighty Night Tea.
  • EDIT: Thanks to one of our readers comments I am adding this suggestion: Read a book about being scared to normalize your child’s fears. Thanks Martha!

Night Terrors:

These are also known as sleep terrors and are very different than nightmares. Your child my seem fully awake but they will be completely inconsolable. Their eyes may be open and they may be screaming and crying with an increased heart rate. This usually happens within the first few hours of sleep. Unlike nightmares,  most children do not remember the episode. It is estimated that only 1%-6% of children will experience them but the chances are increased 20x if a close family member has had them. It is more common in boys than girls and the onset age is typically around three and a half but can occur between three and twelve.

How to handle them:

Night terrors usually last only 1-2 mins but sometimes up to 30 minutes. During this time your child may be calling for you but not able to see you. They may kick and scream. The best thing to do is keep them comfortable and stay patient. When our son has one we comply with every command because there is no debating in this situation. We bring him to our bed and hold him. Most times he falls back asleep within minutes.

Before I knew how to handle it I would ask questions and try turning on lights. I was told I could make him look in the mirror to wake up. None of those worked and I ended up very frustrated. Thankfully my husband went through this as a child and was able to help out and give me some pointers. Our son gets back to sleep faster and we all sleep better by using these tips.

Children under three and a half may have one episode a week but as they get older they should become less frequent and occur only once or twice a month. In most cases the night terrors are not bad enough to require physician assistance. If you are worried then having your doctor evaluate your child may be useful. It never hurts to call!

How do you handle nightmares or night terrors?



Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!
Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:

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  • Berger, Kathleen Stassen (2002) The Developing Person Through Childhood and Adolescence: Sixth Edition. New York, NY: Worth Publishers
  • (February, 2013)

*Disclosure* This post contains affiliate links. That means that I will receive a percentage if you make a purchase through my link. I am still completely honest with my posts and I am only affiliated with companies I believe in. The small percentage I make helps support a hard working stay-at-home mom. Thanks!

About Angela Vullo

I am a mother to three wonderful children. I love to read and write. I created this blog to share my experience and tips on trying to live a green lifestyle.

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