For children, nightmares tend to decrease by the time they're teenagers. However, if you have concerns about safety or underlying conditions, you may want to see your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist.
It's a good idea to prepare for your appointment. Here's some information to help you.
What you can do
- Keep a sleep diary for two weeks before your appointment to help your doctor understand your or your child's sleeping pattern. In the morning, record as much as you know of the bedtime ritual, quality of sleep and so on. At the end of the day, record behaviors that may affect sleep, such as caffeine consumption or medications taken.
- List all medications, vitamins or other supplements you're taking and the dosages.
- List any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment.
- Note key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember what the doctor says.
- List questions to ask your doctor to make the most of your time together.
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, including:
Aug. 09, 2014
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- How often do the nightmares occur, and what are they about?
- What do you usually do before bedtime?
- Have you had sleep problems in the past?
- Does anyone else in your family have sleep problems?
- Nightmares and sleep. National Sleep Foundation. http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/abnormal-sleep-behaviors/nightmares-and-sleep. Accessed May 27, 2014.
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- Sateia M. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014. http://www.aasmnet.org/EBooks/ICSD3. Accessed May 20, 2014.
- Sleep-wake disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 30, 2014.
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- Carter KA, et al. Common sleep disorders in children. American Family Physician. 2014;89:368.
- In-lab sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.com/disease-management/in-lab-sleep-study/overview. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Haupt M, et al. Just a scary dream? A brief review of sleep terrors, nightmares and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. Pediatric Annals. 2013;42:211.
- Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.com/sleep-disorders/nightmares. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Brain basics: Understanding sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm#dreaming. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Silber MH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 25, 2014.
- Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 1, 2014.
- Kotagal S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 7, 2014.