What Are Toddler Nightmares?
Nightmares are bad, scary, and realistic dreams that wake your child up during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. A nightmare causes your child to immediately get up in bed and cry.
Your child will remember a nightmare and will most likely engage in a conversation about it. Sometimes, children who recently experienced a nightmare will have difficulty going back to sleep as it is hard for them to separate reality from a dream or nightmare.
What Are Toddler Night Terrors?
Night terrors are often confused with nightmares because they involve a scared, crying child. However, night terrors do not involve real-like imagery, as nightmares do. Instead, night terrors are a sudden reaction to fear during sleep stage transitions.
Toddlers might scream, wail, shout, and on rare occasions sleepwalk during night terrors. Waking them and consoling them is not going to help, as they are still in deep sleep.
Night terrors happen during non-REM sleep and last for a few minutes that can be recurrent during sleeping hours. Toddlers will not remember a night terror once woken up in the morning, unlike nightmares.
What Causes Toddler Nightmares or Night Terrors?
Toddlers are always happy, active, and full of love, but these will not shield them from a possible nightmare or night terror during bedtime.
As a parent, it is best if you are aware of the factors that cause toddler nightmares or night terrors so you can help your child manage and make the situation better. Nightmare and night terror causes include:
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are common causes of toddler nightmares or night terrors. Toddlers may feel stressed and anxious when something triggers their fear like seeing a spider, being alone in the dark, or separation anxiety.
Young children may also feel these emotional tensions when they are being reprimanded by their parents or being shunned away by other children
Major life changes such as having a new sibling, moving into a new home, being with new people, or going to school are things that cause toddler nightmares or night terrors.
Injuries, accidents, being in the hospital, or being lost are also great factors that affect a toddler’s nighttime experience.
Irregular Sleeping Schedule
Sleeping very late and waking up too early or not having a regular bedtime routine can result in frequent nightmares or night terrors.