Almost every day brings new experiences for young children, and some of them are pretty scary to a little person who feels kind of helpless in a big world.
Nightmares are frightening dreams that usually cause children to wake up. They generally happen closer to the morning, and children usually report that the dream was about being in danger.
Nightmares generally happen because your child is feeling worried about something, or is having difficulty with playmates or a family situation. Seeing a scary movie or video can do it, too. Experts think that nightmares may result from children trying to work through all these experiences and fears while asleep.
Nightmares seem to happen most often between the ages of two and six. For example, a lot of two-year olds seem to be afraid that Mom or Dad will leave them, and a lot of three-year olds develop fears of monsters or animals. Of course, real-life things can cause nightmares, too, such as seeing parents argue, starting daycare or seeing a scary television show or movie. Basically, anything that a child finds upsetting may cause him to have nightmares.
If the nightmares occur frequently, your child may become quite fearful of going to bed and have difficulty falling asleep. Your child also may want to sleep in your bed. She may not even want to go on a sleepover, for fear of having a nightmare in front of friends. And if your child is getting less sleep than needed, she may be irritable and moody. You, too, will probably suffer from lack of sleep, because you are being woken by your child.
If your child is losing a lot of sleep, or beginning to avoid sleeping or any other activities she used to enjoy, consult your child's physician about any possible medical reason for the nightmares.