For children, nightmares tend to decrease by the time they're adolescents. 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. Keeping a sleep diary for two weeks before your appointment can help your doctor understand more about your or your child's sleeping pattern. In the morning, you record as much as you know of your or your child's bedtime ritual, quality of sleep, and so on. At the end of the day, you record behaviors that may affect your or your child's sleep, such as caffeine consumption and any medications taken.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help you remember what the doctor says.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions for your doctor will help you make the most of your time together. For nightmares, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- 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 take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
Aug. 12, 2011
- 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. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Disorder.aspx?id=37. Accessed June 7, 2011.
- Overnight sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://yoursleep.aasmnet.org/Topic.aspx?id=12. Accessed June 10, 2011.
- National sleep disorders research plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/section5/section5a.html. Accessed June 7, 2011.
- Matwiyoff J, et al. Parasomnias: An overview. Indian Journal of Medical Research. 2010;131:333.
- Stores G. Aspects of parasomnias in childhood and adolescents. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2009;94:63.
- Avidan AY, et al. The parasomnias: Epidemiology, clinical features, and diagnostic approach. Clinics in Chest Medicine. 2010;31:353.
- Attarian H. Treatment options for parasomnias. Neurological Clinics. 2010;28:1089.
- Shredl M, et al. Gender differences in nightmare frequency: A meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2011;15:115.
- Crenshaw T. Nightmares and PTSD: Research review. National Center for PTSD. www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/nightmares_and_ptsd_research_review.asp. Accessed June 17, 2011.