What Causes Nightmares & Night Terrors In Toddlers And How To Cure Them?

what causes nightmares & night terrors in toddlers and how to cure them

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Having a nightmare is scary enough for grownups, and even more so for toddlers. Nightmares mostly occur during the second half of the night, when dreams are common. A normal dream may suddenly turn terrifying, as your toddler might be in a disturbed state of mind.

There are many reasons which may cause a nightmare and make your toddler restless. The good news is that it is possible to soothe her back to sleep and avoid nightmares if you keep a check on some factors.

What Are The Reasons For Toddler Nightmares?

Toddlers at this stage are unable to distinguish between reality and fiction, so it is easy for them to be affected adversely by horrid images, incidents or stories.

A number of things can cause your toddler nightmares:

  1. An unlikable experience during the day, like a fight at preschool.
  2. Any change in external experiences. Shifting to a new house or your changed timings at work and its effect may also be the cause.
  3. Unpleasant images before going to bed, like a sca
    ry movie or story with demons.
  4. The sight of anything remotely scary. It may be an insect or a shadow on the window.
  5. Haphazard sleeping schedules, when there is no fixed time for putting your toddler to bed.
  6. Being over stressed or tired.
  7. A sickness, like upset stomach, fever or congestion.
  8. Being away from a parent or other family member, your toddler is very attached to.
  9. Uncomfortable sleeping conditions, like temperature or light in room, tight or irritable clothes or an external sound.

How To Deal With Toddler Nightmares Instantly?

Comforting your toddler after she has had a nightmare is the most important thing to do. While doing so, remember the following tips:

  1. Rub your toddler’s back, lightly massage head, hands and feet, or just hug her close. All this will reassure her that you are there with her.
  2. Simply telling her that ‘it was just a dream’ will do no good. Explain that it was something playing in her head and has now stopped, or a momentary experience which will not reoccur.
  3. If needed, you may take your toddler to sleep with you in your bed. If you are teaching her to sleep in her room, be careful not to do so too often, lest it may become a habit that is tough to get rid of later.

Remember that every toddler has different needs and you may have to try various tactics to comfort your toddler after a nightmare.

[ Read: Toddler Sleep ]

How To Avoid Toddler Nightmares?

You will never know exactly what caused a nightmare unless your toddler tells you, and there are some factors beyond your control. The best way to avoid toddler from having a nightmare is avoiding things that cause them.

Here are a few things you can do to help avoid your toddler having nightmares:

  1. Maintain a proper sleep schedule and don’t deviate from it
  2. Keep a watch on your toddler’s pre-bed, television viewing habit.
  3. Giving a bath before bed may also help
  4. Try to optimize the sleeping conditions. Keep the sleeping conditions, like temperature and lighting, perfect Change of clothes or switching the fan on/off may help.
  5. Once you leave the room, keep the door ajar so as to avoid a feeling of loneliness.
  6. Doing a mock search around the room, looking behind doors and under the bed may help your toddler believe that there is nothing scary.
  7. Engage in activities that your toddler enjoys. Reading out her favorite story, singing a soothing song, or just keeping her precious toys close by will help to calm your toddler.

[ Read: Impact Of Tv On Children ]


  • You may want to know exactly what caused the nightmare or what was it that frightened your toddler. She may or may not remember the details of the dream the next morning. Make sure not to disturb your toddler by asking too much about it.
  • If your toddler cries out or gets agitated by a nightmare, you must stay calm. Your anxiety will only scare her more. So keep your cool and comfort your toddler back to sleep.

Following the tips shared here will certainly help. Do tell us what methods you follow to curb nightmares in your tot.

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