How To Stop Nightmares In Children

Did you know that 50% of all children will have woken up in the middle of the night at least once as a result of nightmares by their fifth birthday? As surprising as this might sound it is a fact with several studies to back it up. It also shows just how frequent nightmares are in children. Nightmares may be normal, but they are still very terrifying, and so it is your responsibility as a parent to help your kid overcome them and also to learn how to stop nightmares in children.

How Do You Know If Your Child Has Nightmares?

That unmistakable scream coming from your son's room down the hall is one of the clearest indications that he is having nightmares. Whereas some will scream out loudly when they are still sleeping most will scream and wake up from the dream. Many kids will then resort to several minutes of nonstop crying and when this happens you can be confident that the child has nightmares.

how to stop nightmares in children

Some babies will not scream out loud, but they will find it hard to fall asleep after the bad dream. And so if you can hear your child tossing and turning in bed or playing with something this should be a sign that he is unable to sleep due to the nightmares. These scary episodes will in most cases occur in the second part of the night, and it is important not to mistake them for night terrors. They are very bothersome to kids, and so yours should be able to remember them the following day or even for a long time.

nightmares in children

It is also common for some toddlers to sweat a lot when they have nightmares and this is because they are scared. A few will also wet their bed when having these bad dreams. When things get to the extent of unusual sweating and bed wetting, it might be time to see a professional because this means that the problem is severe.

What Should You Do To Help Your Child After Nightmares?

The first thing that a parent should do is to go to the toddler as quick as possible and deliver a big hug for comfort and to assure him that he is safe now. There is no individual strategy or trick that you will need for this because you only have to comfort him until he calms enough to go back to sleep.

toddler nightmares

If your child is dreaming about monsters in the closet or under his bed (which happens to be very common with toddlers), you should assure him that there are not there. Just telling him this is never enough and it is always a good idea to inspect the wardrobe or look under the bed together so that he can see firsthand that there are no monsters.

You should also help the child go back to sleep, but it is not a good idea to bring him to your bed. Instead, you should leave him to fall asleep on his bed and do it with limited assistance from you because this is a way of training him to cope with future nightmares. You can go back after a few minutes just to confirm that he is asleep.

help your child after nightmares

Making sure that your kid sleeps with his favorite toy is also a good way of assuring him that he is safe. Sometimes all that kids need is an assurance that they are not alone in the room. You should also keep the light in his room on as he sleeps, and remind him that you are just one room or a few steps away. Click here if you want to choose the Best Night Light for your kids. 

Also, talk to your kid about the nightmare if he is willing to share it, but do not force him. Sometimes there can be something that is triggering the bad dreams and talking about it is very efficient in stopping the nightmare. Some kids might not be willing to share their nightmare experiences with their parents but would be happy to talk to their older siblings about it. Lastly, make sure that you never dismiss your kid's dreams no matter how weird they seem.

How to Prevent Nightmares To Help Your Kids Have A Good Night's Sleep

Occasional nightmares are okay, but the problem is when your child cannot go for a couple of nights with the bad dreams. If this is the case, you will need to come up with some way to prevent them or to help your child cope with them. Below are a few practical ways that seem to work with most kids.

1. Choosing Bedtime Stories Carefully

Kids love bedtime stories, and most of them will not sleep without hearing one. But, if you want to prevent nightmares you should be careful with your story choice. Avoid books with frightening pictures or themes because they can trigger the bad dreams.

2. Bedtime Routine

Just like adults, kids also need relaxing bedtime routines as they help them fall asleep fast and for long which reduces the probability of nightmares. There are many things that you can include in the routine but a warm bath and singing their favorite song seem to work best.

3. Help Him Make A Dreamcatcher

It does not matter whether you believe in dream catchers or not because kids just need something to assure them that they are safe. You can help your child make a simple dreamcatcher using materials available at home or even draw a simple one on paper and hang it on the bed. If the child believes that it will catch the bad dreams and let in the good ones he is more likely not to have nightmares.

4. Copping Skills

Regardless of how long it takes, most kids can overcome nightmares and enjoy uninterrupted sleep every night. However, it is still important to teach him some coping skills. It is not always possible to avoid the bad dreams, but if your child knows how to cope with them, he will be able to go back to sleep without your help.

5. Therapy

If everything else that you try does not seem to work it might be the right time to consult an expert. A therapist can be very helpful because there are some fears that you cannot see through the child or he might not be ready to express them. But, the professional will identify them and work with the child to come up with solutions.


Nightmares are a part of a child's development, but this does not make them least scary or a good experience. But, if you know how to respond to them and prevent or reduces the frequency of their occurrence it will be very helpful to your kid. The most important thing is to be there to comfort the child and also to talk to them and find out the underlying cause, and make sure that your child will not sleep with a blanket over the head. Also, do not hesitate to consult a doctor if the bad dreams persist.​

  • Jane
  • Updated March 31, 2018

I am Jane Collins, a Founder and a Main Editor of I decided to create this site to share my knowledge, guides and tips to help you to have a good night's sleep.

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