Causes of nightmares

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:45 pm
A child's nightmare is a scary dream, followed by complete or partial awakening. It usually occurs late in the night or very early in the morning. Sometimes it may be triggered by a scary story or by violence on television or in a movie, so be sure to screen T-V programs and don't allow a child to watch T-V or videos right before bed. If children wake up and remember a bad dream, they may believe it's real, so they'll need to be reassured that it's not. It's O-K to give children a few minutes to put themselves back to sleep before you go to them. Don't reward them for waking up by offering food or bringing them to your room. Often children may be unwilling or unable to fall back asleep immediately. For most children, the best response is to hold and comfort them, and let them tell you about the dream, if they can. If they're scared of 'monsters,' it may help to take them to a well-lighted room and to keep talking reassuringly until they're awake and calm. Stay with them until they're calm enough to fall asleep. If children are generally anxious or under stress, nightmares could be more frequent, so try to relieve any pressures they're under. You can put children in a good frame of mind for sleep by playing quietly with them, reading a pleasant story, playing soothing music, or even doing a simple form of meditation. If your child wakes up frequently, a night light may help provide reassurance. An increasing incidence of nightmares could tip you off to a bigger problem of depression.

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