Dramatic nightmares are incredibly normal for little ones under the age of 5. Kids have vivid imaginations, and dreams are how they synthesize the things that they encounter during the day. Younger children, non-verbal children, or children with limited verbal ability may not have the words to describe their dreams or even express that they’ve had a nightmare. If these kiddos start resisting bedtime, frequent nightmares may be the cause. Keep in mind that regularly occurring nightmares may be triggered by certain scary events like new siblings, going back to school, or divorce. Make sure that you take time to talk these things through during the day and show your little one that you care about these big feelings that they are experiencing.
When your child comes to you after waking from a nightmare, it’s important to start reinforcing habits that encourage getting back to restful sleep and the understanding that sleep isn’t scary. There’s no right or wrong place for your little one to go back to sleep. Whether it works to have them return to their bed, is easier to have them join you in your bed, or you’re already co-sleeping, show sympathy for their scary dream. Stay calm and try not to show too much concern or come across as fearful. Let your child snuggle with you or rub their back while you let them tell you about the dream. It can help older children to ask why they think they had a bad dream. After about ten minutes, everyone should be ready to drift back to sleep.
A special nighttime herbal pillow can also help to fight off bad dreams. Herbal pillows are a traditional treatment for insomnia and nightmares. They are also snuggly and can become special objects much like a stuffed animal or blanket. The best way to use the herbal pillow is to let your child snuggle it rather than laying their head on it. As the herbs lose their scent, just replace them. As the pillow gets dirty, just wash the outer cover. Creating the pillow can be a fun and special activity to do together.
You’ll get to put your crafty hat on for this one! Create a flannel or organic cotton pillow case and add Velcro tabs that will keep the pillow case securely fastened shut. To fill the pillow case, you can sew muslin pouches or you can purchase prefabricated ones to fill with herbs. Your child can help you fill the pouch. This is a really fun way to introduce them to different herbs, how they smell, and how these smells make them feel. Good options to pick from include sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and rose petals. Mix the dried herbs in a stainless steel bowl, fill the muslin pouch, and place the pouch in the pillow case.
If your child continues to suffer from nightmares or wakeful/restless nights, it may be time to see a family counselor.
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The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical or nutritional advice.