Why do people cry themselves to sleep?
Of nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalkers
Nightmares: often the result of too strong impressions
Very different from a night terrors, which the child does not actually notice and which he cannot remember either, nightmares are often experienced as terrible and threatening. Anyone who has once "had a bad dream" as an adult knows how depressing such a dream can be for days afterwards. It is no different with a child. When they wake up after a nightmare, they can usually still remember what they "experienced" very vividly and in detail. It is frightened, needs consolation and seeks the care and protection of the parents. Especially in younger years (around the end of preschool age), when a child experiences dreams as reality, the fear from the dream can persist long after waking up. The children usually remember a nightmare for days or even weeks afterwards.
When your child wakes up after a nightmare and calls for you or comes to you, the most important thing they need is your understanding so that they can process their dream. If the child can already talk, you can talk to him about what he dreamed. Sleep therapists have made the experience that it can be helpful if you let children draw the figures from their dreams the next day and thus make them “tangible”. The children should then think of a new, good outcome for the experience in the dream.
Of the parasomnias, nightmares are those most likely to be related to acute or chronic stress. The causes of a nightmare are often to be found in very intense or frightening impressions of the day that overwhelm the child. This also includes excessive television viewing that is not appropriate for children. Particularly with school children, excessive demands can play a role due to the pressure to perform at school.
In order to avoid "bad dreams", you should ensure a balanced atmosphere during the day. In the evening before going to bed, give your child the opportunity to talk about what they experienced during the day - it is better, however, to discuss stressful events during the day. And make sure that your child doesn't watch too much TV. Watching TV in the last hour before going to sleep should be taboo.
Basically, nightmares are not a cause for concern. However, if your child regularly has nightmares once or several times a week, you should seek professional help and consider possible causes. The best thing to do is to contact your pediatrician.
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