I’m a psychologist – here’s 4 ways to stop your little one’s nightmares

GETTING your little one to sleep can be challenging.

But it can be harder to help them drift off if they have become afraid of what they might dream of.


Getting your little one to sleep can be hard work – but one expert has revealed how you can prevent them from having nightmares and help them have a restful nightCredit: Getty

Nightmares are common and while the exact cause isn’t known, it’s believed that they are bought on by being overtired and experiencing stress.

If your child if suffering, then it might feel as though you have tried everything.

Sadly, no matter how many fluffy toys and how much comfort your child has, it’s likely they will still experience nightmares.

Now one sleep psychologist has revealed her top tips to eliminate kids’ scary dreams and help children and parents get a peaceful night’s sleep.

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Dr Katherine Hall, expert at Somnus Therapy said there are four key elements you should be focusing on.

1. Brainstorm

If your child is having negative thoughts before bed, Dr Hall said encouraging them to day dream about pleasant things is a good exercise.

Dr Hall, who has teamed up with Happy Beds said you should do this as part of their sleep routine.

She explained: “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.”

She said that 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,” Dr Hall added.

2. Discuss their fears

The more you avoid your fears, the bigger and scarier they become, and this also counts for children and their sleep.

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

Dr Hall said that 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,” she explained.

3. Choose snacks wisely

Many foods have been linked to nightmares, including cheese, sugar, sweets, chocolate and fast food.

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

She said you should take note of what your child ate the night before a particularly bad bout of nightmares and 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,” she said.

4. Relax

Just like adults, it’s key for your child to wind down before they go to bed.

Dr Hall suggests turning off the TV and all other digital devices at least an hour before it’s time to snooze.

This, she said, is because 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.”

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You can also help your child calm their mind by performing breathing or mindful exercises with them.

“Children’s yoga and meditation are becoming a popular way to reduce stress and anxiety and promote positivity and confidence,” Dr Hall added.

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