Nightmares aren't real, but they can be frightening for both children and adults alike. Usually, nightmares are nothing to worry about. Most kids simply outgrow nightmares on their own. In the meantime, your calming presence and gentle reassurance can help lull your child back to sleep.

Let us delve in detail to understand the obvious causes of a nightmare in children and explore some simple solutions to help them deal with it. Read on.

What causes nightmares?
boy reading scary book=
Many factors can trigger nightmares in children, such as:

  • Scary books and movies: Reading scary books or watching scary movies, especially before bedtime, can cause nightmares.
  • Stress: Any ordinary stresses of daily life like a problem at school or a major change, such as an absence or death of a loved one, can trigger nightmares.
  • Any traumatic event: Nightmares are common after an accident, injury, or other traumatic events.
  • Bedtime snacking: For some kids, eating right before bedtime and the resulting boost in metabolism and brain activity may also lead to nightmares.
  • Illness: Sometimes sickness also triggers nightmares, especially if the illness is accompanied by a fever.
  • Medications: Some drugs like certain antidepressants, narcotics, and barbiturates can also trigger nightmares.

How to help your child deal with nightmares?

girl sitting in her father's lap and talking with her parents=
A child may have a hard time distinguishing between dreams and reality until s/he turns 8 years to 10 years of age. Follow these steps to help your kids overcome the fear of nightmares:  

  • Imbibe positive thoughts in her/him before s/he sleeps by talking about good and funny situations that happened during the day. This would deviate the child’s mind to positive things.
  • Make sure your child doesn’t watch scary TV shows, videos, or cartoons that may add to his/her fears.
  • Remind the child that nightmares are not real and cannot hurt them. Also, share your personal childhood experiences of your scary dreams and how you had overcome them.
  • Talk to them if s/he seems anxious or stressed. It is important to know what is bothering him/her. Maybe a bad experience at school, playground, or at home is the reason behind horrifying dreams.
  • Make the child feel secure by making him/her sleep with their favorite animal, blanket, or other comfort objects.
  • Install a night-light near his/her bed and switch it on to make him/her feel better. Usually, it’s the darkness of the night that scares the most.  
  • Keep your child’s door open so that s/he should not feel alone.

Last but not the least, nightmares too are a part of normal development. It helps children learn ways to set out their fears and to overcome their daily difficulties.

For any queries related to your child’s emotional wellbeing consult a Child Psychologist at

About the Author

Prasad J

Dr Prasad is a General Physician with over 13 years of experience. He has special interest in the field of neurology and emergency medicine. He has written extensively on various health blogs and is here to guide and resolve your health concerns.

5 + 2 + 7 =

Recent Questions