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Parenting - Things That Go Bump In The Night - Night Fears.

What are night fears?


Night fears are the partial awakening of a child expressing the following behaviors: shouting, crying, panic, walking in the room, muttering. Such behavior is usually shown within the first two sleeping hours. Such episodes are harmless and usually end in a deep sleep. They are considered a part of the natural process of growing up through age six.

Night fears are characterized by the following features:


  • Your child is frightened, but he cannot neither be awakened, nor calmed.
  • The child’s eyes are opened wide, but he does not notice your presence.
  • Objects and people in the room can seem to be frightening.
  • The episode lasts from 10 to 30 minutes.
  • The child does not remember in the morning, that something has occurred to him.


How to help the child cope with his night fear:


Help the child to return to his normal sleeping condition; that is, do not try to wake him. Despite that it may look to you as if the child is not sleeping during an episode of night fear, he is sleeping. Dim down the light or even switch it off, talk to him in a quiet, lulling voice, you can also take his hands if it helps. Don’t shout or shake him on any account, it will only aggravate the situation.


Take preventive measures against possible damages. During the night fear, the child can be up from his bed and walk or run somewhere. As the child does not see where he goes, he should be gently directed back to his bed.


It is better to prevent the occurrence of night fear, than to fight with it later. The probability of the occurrence of night fears rises if the child is overtired. See to it that the child always goes to bed at the same time. Also it is quite good if the child who has a tendency for night fears, can sleep a little in the afternoon.


Within several nights you should observe how long after falling asleep the problem appears. Within seven consecutive days try to awake the child 15 minutes earlier before the typical time that the night fears occur and try to keep him from falling asleep for about 5 minutes. If after you stop this procedure the night fears appear again, try to repeat this procedure again.


In what cases it is necessary to see a doctor:


  • Episodes last more than 30 minutes.
  • Episodes happen during the second half of the night.
  • If the child twitches, says something incoherent.
  • If the child does something dangerous for his health during the episode.
  • The child has daytime fears.
  • If you feel that the reason for the fears is the stressful situation in the family.
  • You can also see a doctor in any other case that makes you concerned.


What are nightmares?


Nightmares are terrible dreams that cause the child’s awakening and his fear to fall asleep again. There is no certain reason for the occurrence of nightmares, but sometimes dreadful dreams can be caused by something frightening and upsetting that the child has seen or heard (real or unreal). Frightful dreams are normal phenomenon for any age after six months. They are often defined by stages of the child’s development.

Two to three year-old children dream that they stay alone; four to six year-old children see dreams about different monsters and darkness. Nightmares usually appear during the third phase of sleep.


How to help the child:


  • Before the child falls asleep, tell him kind stories with a happy ending.
  • Give the child a protective blanket or his favorite toy in his bed.
  • Read or tell the child stories, how to cope with nightmares.
  • Avoid watching frightful animated cartoons and films.
  • Leave the bedroom door open (never close it if your child is subject to various fears).
  • Help the child to tell you his terrible dream because he will feel better after that.
  • Do not frighten him by saying that if he behaves badly, a monster (and his other derivatives) will take him away.


When should you resort to the help of an expert:


  • If nightmares become more frequent.
  • If fears from the dreams influence the day activity of the child.
  • Or in any other case in which you are concerned.

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