Lately, my 3-yo is having problems sleeping through the night because of nightmares. (I don't think they are night terrors, as her behavior does not seem to meet the definition of night terrors I find on the web). It's gotten so bad that she no longer wants to sleep because "she doesn't want to dream". Our bedtime routine has not changed recently, and we've cut out "scary" shows from her viewing (the witches in Dora, for example). But it doesn't seem to help. Does anyone have any advice on how to handle this? Because this breaks my heart. How do you reassure your little girl that she won't have bad dreams?

asked 11 Nov '10, 01:25

RHPT's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

edited 11 Nov '10, 03:22

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦

+1 Great question

(11 Nov '10, 09:03) Emi

The majority of information online suggests that recurring bad dreams at this age are caused by:

  1. Anxiety or stress caused by any big life changes or events
  2. Physical reasons such as illness, discomfort, or eating late
  3. None of the above - bad dreams are a normal development milestone for 3 year old's

In terms of helping your daughter with the dreams, I found some interesting suggestions here and here.

I'll also add something I remember my parents doing when my sister, who was five, was having recurring nightmares about being chased by "a man with a skull head."

First, they always insisted she talk about what happened in the dreams afterward, even if she was scared and didn't want to.

And when she began getting scared to go to sleep, they gave her an imaginary magic item to "take with her", and encouraged her to use it to make the man disappear.

I remember her talking about how she "made the bad guy run away" and being very proud.


answered 11 Nov '10, 18:28

blue's gravatar image

accept rate: 26%

1+ Great answer, and I love the "imaginary item" approach

(12 Nov '10, 06:15) Emi

@blue similar to your imaginary magic item I remember when I was a child my mother always told me that if I fell asleep looking in a certain direction (which just happened to be facing my Winnie the Pooh poster) I wouldn't have bad dreams. It got to the point where I would ask her every night for awhile "what's the good dream side, mom?". I seemed to work.

(13 Nov '10, 15:14) Tammy ♦♦

I remember a recurrent bad dream about being chased by some monster, with the same complicated scenario. In the end, I managed - somehow - to work out how to get away (a bit like a computer game), and never had the dream again.

(15 Nov '10, 07:38) Benjol
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Asked: 11 Nov '10, 01:25

Seen: 6,889 times

Last updated: 11 Nov '10, 18:28