Ask A Sleep Expert: Nightmares
Q: “Last night, my son who is 3.5 years old woke screaming for me at 2am. It was a very sudden and scared scream. When I went into him he just kept saying he wanted to get out of his room. He ended up sleeping with us in our room. This doesn’t happen often but has another time or two in the last 6 months. I can only assume a bad nightmare? Would you agree? My question is, if it’s the age when this starts to happen, what can you do to make them feel safe in their room? I don’t sleep well when he sleeps with us (this very rarely happens), but also don’t have the heart to leave him in his room scared. Any tips if this happens again? We already have a nightlight and he sleeps with lots of stuffies. He’s always been a good sleeper on his own.”
A: Did you ask him about it this morning? If he is afraid of something – listen to him and then talk through it and reassure him that he is safe and his room is his safe space. For example, “afraid of monsters” – there are no monsters in your room, we make sure of it when we say goodnight and then we keep you safe all night long.
I know that you said it has happened more than once. Keep an eye on his waking over the next few months; it could happen when he is more tired. We often see nightmares and night terrors when a child is overtired. Try to calm him and reassure him and have him go back to sleep in his bed. If it starts to happen night after night and you are pulling him into your bed then it could be more for the attention and bed switch.
Jamie Contarini is a certified sleep consultant with Good Night Sleep Site Halton. Proud Mama of two boys. Jamie realized that her interest in helping change some of her son’s sleep habits actually turned into a passion and she happily joined the Good Night team with her mission being to help families succeed as she did. When she is not working, Jamie enjoys family time with her husband, sons and golden retriever. Find Jamie online at www.goodnightsleepsite.com/Halton, on Facebook, on Twitter and on Instagram.