Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

If nightmares are a problem for you or your child, try these strategies:

  • Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime. A consistent bedtime routine is important. Do quiet, calming activities — such as reading books, doing puzzles or soaking in a warm bath — before bed. Meditation, deep breathing or relaxation exercises may help, too. Also, make the bedroom comfortable and quiet for sleep.
  • Offer reassurances. If your child is struggling with nightmares, be patient, calm and reassuring. After your child awakens from a nightmare, respond quickly and soothe your child at the bedside. This may prevent future nightmares.
  • Talk about the dream. Ask your child to describe the nightmare. What happened? Who was in the dream? What made it scary? Then remind your child that nightmares aren't real and can't hurt you.
  • Rewrite the ending. Imagine a happy ending for the nightmare. For your child, you may encourage him or her to draw a picture of the nightmare, "talk" to the characters in the nightmare or write about the nightmare in a journal. Sometimes a little creativity can help.
  • Put stress in its place. If stress or anxiety is an issue, talk about it. Practice some simple stress-relief activities, such as deep breathing or relaxation. A mental health professional can help, if needed.
  • Provide comfort measures. Your child might feel more secure if he or she sleeps with a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or other comfort object. Leave your child's door open at night so that he or she won't feel alone. Leave your door open, too, in case your child needs comfort during the night.
  • Use a night light. Keep a night light on in your child's room. If your child wakes up during the night, the light may be reassuring.
July 06, 2017
References
  1. Sateia M. Nightmare disorder. International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014. http://www.aasmnet.org/EBooks/ICSD3. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  2. Nightmare disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  3. Kotagal S. Sleepwalking and other parasomnias in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  5. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  6. Aurora RN, et al. Best practice guide for treatment of nightmare disorder in adults. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2010;6:389.
  7. Nadorff MR, et al. Pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments for nightmare disorder. International Review of Psychiatry. 2014;26:225.
  8. Nightmares. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.org/sleep-disorders-by-category/parasomnias/nightmares. Accessed May 16, 2017.
  9. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 26, 2017.