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Sleep expert reveals four ways to eliminate children's night terrors

By Fiona Evans
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 10:50 am

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A sleep expert has shared simple ways to help stop children's nightmares
A sleep expert has shared simple ways to help stop children's nightmares

Simple ways to help your child if they are suffering from nightmares

Waking up frightened in the middle of the night is rotten - especially for children.

They can easily feel isolated but they are far from alone.

Half of UK children have regular nightmares that can leave them scared and upset, as well as driving a wrecking ball through their much-needed sleep.

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And of course that impacts on the whole family.

But one sleep expert is offering advice to make scary nights a thing of the past.

Katherine Hall, a psychologist in sleep from Somnus Therapy, has teamed up with Happy Beds to provide her top tips to eliminate children’s nightmares and help them and their families to get a peaceful night’s sleep.

1 Brainstorm “good” dream ideas

A way to ward off negative thoughts and dreams is to discuss happy thoughts before your child falls asleep.

As part of your sleep routine and schedule, take a few moments to discuss the types of good dreams your child wishes to have.

For example, if you have a fun vacation or event in the near future, have your child imagine what it will be like. What will they pack or wear? What types of activities will they do and who will be there?

Encourage your child to daydream about these pleasant thoughts. Not only will this decrease their chances of having a nightmare but they may fall asleep faster by focusing on these exciting ideas.

Just avoid generating too much excitement right before bed, which may cause your little one to become hyper-aroused.

2 Discuss their fears

The more you avoid your fears, the bigger and scarier they become.

Instead of completely shielding your child from their greatest fears, some experts suggest you gradually expose them to whatever is triggering their nightmares.

Over time, these triggers will have less control over your child’s mood, thoughts and dreams.

For example, if your child is having nightmares about clowns, the dolls in their bedroom or the neighbour's dog, you need to show them that these things aren’t a threat.

Try discussing their specific fears for 10 to 15 minutes a day. The more comfortable your child becomes with these ideas and images, the less scary they’ll be and the less likely to cause disturbing nightmares.

Half of UK children have regular nightmares

3 Choose snacks and drinks wisely

Speaking of a nighttime snack, what your child eats before bed can directly affect the types of dreams they have.

Foods including cheese, spicy foods, sugar and sweets (particularly chocolate), pizza, fast food, noodles or pasta, milk and even meat have all been linked to nightmares.

Drinks containing caffeine are also a major trigger for nightmares; including sports drinks, fizzy drinks, iced tea and certain types of juice.

Take note of what your child ate the night before a particularly bad bout of nightmares.

Swap the above-mentioned foods with healthy, low-sugar alternatives like yoghurt, fresh fruit, granola or toast.

A light snack will also prevent stomach discomfort, including gas or acid reflux.

Have your child eat their snack about 60 minutes before bed to allow plenty of time for digestion.

4 Perform relaxing activities before bed

Your child needs to wind down for at least 60 minutes before bed.

Turn off the TV and all other digital devices at least 60 minutes before bed (if not longer).

The blue light from electronic devices prevents your child’s brain from releasing the sleep hormone melatonin, which induces relaxation and calm.

Turning off electronics will also prevent your little one from seeing a frightening image or idea too close to bedtime.

Help your child calm their mind and body by performing breathing or mindfulness exercises. Children’s yoga and meditation are becoming a popular way to reduce stress and anxiety and promote positivity and confidence.

“No matter how comfortable your kid's bed and nighttime set up is, it’s an unfortunate fact that many still suffer from nightmares," said Rex Isap, CEO at Happy Beds.

"As well as being terrifying for children, these sleep disturbances can also impact parents’ sleep and overall well-being. Hopefully, with these tips, both parents and children can get back to enjoying their forty winks in peace.”