Almost every child has an occasional frightening or upsetting dream. But, nightmares seem to be the most common one, especially during the preschool years when fear of the dark normally occurs. Nightmares aren’t completely preventable. And, there are many things parents can do to make their children sleep more peacefully. That way, when nightmares show up, a little comfort from you can quickly ease your child. Here are tips for toddler nightmares for you.
Having Sleep Schedule
Nightmares and other sleep disturbances are more likely to occur when your child has sleep deprivation or isn’t following a consistent routine. In fact, toddlers should get at least 12 hours of sleep per day (including naps). Ideally, they should go to bed before 9.pm and wake up at least 11 hours after that time each day. So, they’ll fall to sleep faster and have a stable sleep routine.
Relaxing before Sleep
When it’s time for bed, your little one should feel relaxed and drowsy, not worried about scary visions or monsters under the bed. Each night, try to have an “evening” ritual that you and your toddler follow before bed. This could include putting on pajamas that your toddler chooses, reading a story, playing with them before sleep. When you tuck them into bed, make sure they know they are safe and secure.
Cozy Sleep Environment
Your kid’s bedroom should be “safe” enough to allow them to refresh for the busy day ahead. If your toddler is afraid of the dark, then having a nightlight is a perfect solution to help them feel more secure. Also, your child might find comfort with hallway light, so you can leave their bedroom door open slightly if it makes them feel safer.
In addition, the room temperature should be suitable for sleeping (about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). And, after tucking your toddler to sleep, be sure to stay relatively quiet. Or, you can use a white noise machine that can block external sounds.
A toy would be a great company for kids. So, let your toddler sleep with the stuffed animal or toys they like. Cuddly or simply just holding toys can ease their feeling about going to sleep alone.
Avoid Scary Movies and Books
At this age, toddlers are still figuring out the line between what’s real and what’s make-believe. Therefore, a scary movie or book can blur those lines and allow your child’s mind to go wild. Anything you share with your child right before bedtime that accidentally contains a scary component can be a recipe for a nightmare.
Nightmares are unfamiliar territory, and what your toddler needs most is the comfort of parents. Try to explain to your toddler that their dreams aren’t real and it can’t hurt them in the simplest way you can. Your child might think that their vision happened somewhere. So, let them know that it’s all make-believe and didn’t actually happen. But don’t minimize or dismiss what they went through. Tell them that you used to have scary dreams when you were a kid and that sometimes you still do. It helps them relate and understand that what is happening to them also happens to everyone else. Finally, ensure them by saying that you’re in the next room and will always keep them safe, even in a dream.
Be a Good Listener
Encourage your toddler to tell you what happened in their dreams. It helps a lot when they can talk about it because they don’t have to keep the scary vision bottled up in their mind. By telling you what is in their nightmares, it gives you a chance to figure out if there’s something happening in the real world that could lead to those nightmares.
Don’t leave your child all alone. Give them some extra cuddles and snuggles so that they know they’re safe. We recommend doing this in their bedroom, not yours. That way, they get used to knowing that their bedroom is just as safe as yours, and it prevents them from making sleeping in your bed a nightly habit.
Divert Their Imagination
Immediately following a nightmare, your toddler might recall more scary things. Instead, lead them down a path that would have allowed their dream to have a positive outcome. Turn it into a game! For example, if your child dreamed that they were being chased by a monster, then ask what would happen if the monster was a friend who was lost, scared, and needed their help. Encourage them to draw a picture with a positive outcome, though you should save that activity for the morning, so you can get back to sleep!
For most kids, nightmares happen only now and then and simply require their parent’s comfort and reassurance. However, you should talk to your doctor if nightmares often prevent your child from getting enough sleep or if it happens along with other emotional or behavioral troubles.