What to Do About Nightmares

flowers
food
fruit
hat
keyword
language
line
perfume
translation
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food
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line
perfume
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film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
science
engagement
flowers
food
fruit
hat
language
line
perfume
translation
wine
baseball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
computer
cup
desk
dress
drug
dye
fanning
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
jewelry
knife
pen
slippers
socks
snacks
stone
toothpaste
toys
camera
clock
combs
counting
fishing
keyboard
makeup
microphones
mouse
pack
paper
photographs
print
school
sofa
sunglasses
trader
umbrella
underwear
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
science
sexy
show
sports
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university
weight
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book
care
clothes
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diplomacy
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party
paypal
rock
shopping
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time
weddingdress
engagement
flowers
food
fruit
hat
line
perfume
translation
wine
baseball
chair
desk
drug
dye
fanning
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
jewelry
knife
oil
pan
pen
pet
slippers
snacks
socks
stone
toothpaste
toys
camera
clock
combs
counting
fishing
keyboard
makeup
microphones
mouse
pack
paper
photographs
print
school
sofa
sunglasses
trader
umbrella
underwear
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
engagement
flowers
food
fruit
hat
line
perfume
translation
wine
baseball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
computer
cup
desk
dress
drug
dye
fanning
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
jewelry
knife
oil
pan
pen
pet
slippers
snacks
socks
stone
toothpaste
toys
camera
clock
combs
counting
fishing
keyboard
makeup
microphones
mouse
pack
paper
photographs
print
school
sofa
sunglasses
trader
umbrella
underwear
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
engagement
flowers
food
fruit
hat
line
perfume
translation
wine
baseball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
computer
cup
desk
dress
drug
dye
fanning
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
jewelry
knife
oil
pan
pen
pet
slippers
snacks
socks
stone
toothpaste
toys
camera
clock
baseball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
computer
cup
deck
dress
drug
dye
fan
fitness
glasses
helmet
knife
oil
ornament
harvester
pan
flowers
food
fruit
hat
keyword
language
line
perfume
translation
wine
baseball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
computer
cup
deck
dress
dye
fan
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
knife
oil
ornament
pan
pen
pet
slippers
snacks
socks
stone
toothpaste
toy
wine
camera
clock
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
deck
dress
drug
dye
fan
Fishing
fitness
flowers
food
fruit
glasses
harvester
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
ornament
oil
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
snacks
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
cycling
deck
dress
drug
fan
Fishing
flowers
food
fruit
hat
keyboard
Keyword
makeup
drug
dye
fitness
glasses
harvester
helmet
knife
line
microphones
mouse
oil
ornament
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
chair
cigarette
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
cycling
deck
dress
drug
dye
fan
Fishing
fitness
flowers
food
fruit
glasses
harvester
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
oil
ornament
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
snacks
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
cycling
deck
dress
drug
dye
fan
Fishing
fitness
flowers
food
fruit
glasses
harvester
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
language
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
oil
ornament
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
snacks
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
toy
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
cycling
dress
deck
drug
dye
fan
Fishing
fitness
flowers
food
fruit
glasses
harvester
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
ornament
pack
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
snacks
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
language
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
oil
ornament
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
slippers
snacks
socks
sofa
stone
sunglasses
toothpaste
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
yoga
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hot
mouse
music
wine
baby
hbo
ice
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
study
sports
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
basketball
beauties
counting
cup
cycling
dye
fitness
food
fruit
harvester
baseball
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
deck
dress
drug
fan
Fishing
flowers
glasses
hat
helmet
keyboard
Keyword
knife
language
line
makeup
microphones
mouse
oil
ornament
pack
pan
paper
perfume
pet
photographs
print
school
snacks
socks
sofa
sunglasses
toothpaste
slippers
stone
toy
translation
umbrella
underwear
wine
yoga
baby
bag
chinese
fat
film
gaming
hbo
hot
ice
mouse
music
novel
red
rock
science
sexy
show
sports
study
train
university
weight
wow
auto
book
care
clothes
desk
diplomacy
hospital
office
party
paypal
rock
shopping
sport
time
weddingdress
baseball
basketball
beauties
camera
chair
cigarette
clock
clothing
comb
computer
counting
cup
cycling
deck
dress
drug
dye
fan
Fishing
fitness
flowers
food
fruit
glasses
harvester

Reader Question: Our 5-year-old has suddenly started waking up with nightmares. He’s not able to describe them with any clarity, however, so we don’t know what the content of them is. The most he’s able to tell us is that there are scary people chasing him.

He began having them about a month ago and has had maybe twenty since. They usually occur about three hours after we tuck him in. When they start, he begins crying or yelling in his sleep. We wake him up and he calms down fairly quickly. A couple of times he’s asked to come to our bed which we’ve allowed. There have been no recent disruptions in either our family life or his life of late, so we don’t know what’s causing them. Do you think it would be helpful to take him to see a therapist?

I don’t recommend it. In the first place, there’s no trustworthy body of evidence that would support the notion that nightmares, as a rule, are indicative of some psychological disturbance—a “repressed” trauma, for example. I used quotation marks because there is significant reason to doubt whether the Freudian concept of repression is even valid. Secondly, there’s a chance that talking to a therapist may make a mountain out of a molehill and either result in a worsening of the nightmares or lead to the development of additional problems. I base that caution not on research but on anecdotal evidence shared with me by lots of parents over the years. The efficacy of talk therapy is dicey with adults; it’s even dicier with children.

In some cases, it’s possible to associate the onset of nightmares with a difficult transition or a very upsetting circumstance, but even then it’s impossible to be sure that the event in question is the cause. The fact is, almost all children report nightmares at one time or another. More often than not, they stop as mysteriously as they started. The one clue here is your report that the nightmares occur around three hours after you put him to bed. That suggests that they are somehow related to your son’s sleep cycle, but that is nothing more than somewhat educated speculation.

In my estimation, you’re doing the right thing, including letting him come into your bed on occasion. I am not an advocate of either attachment parenting or parent-child co-sleeping except in exceptional circumstances, of which this is one. You’re also doing the right thing by waking him up and comforting him. If the nightmares get a lot worse, you might consider taking him to a sleep clinic, but I’d give that decision some time.

In other words, for the time being, just keep calm and parent on.

 

John Rosemond

Family psychologist John Rosemond is America’s most widely-read parenting expert. Learn more about John at www.rosemond.com

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