Do nightmares prevent your teen from getting a good night sleep? According to the International Association for the Study of Dreams, nightmares are most common between the ages of three and eight, but that doesn’t mean your teen isn’t susceptible to them. Nightmares are caused by a number of factors including alcohol, drugs, certain medicines, lack of sleep, stress or trauma. As the parent, you can help your teen cope with the nightmares and move onto a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Identify any potential medicines, alcohol or drug use that might contribute to nightmares. Although your teen is too young to drink and drug use is illegal, these are potential contributing factors. Talk to your teen’s physician if he is on any medication to see if the nightmares might be a side effect of that medicine.
Ask your teen to tell you about the nightmare including what happened, who was in the dream and what made it scary. Have her write down the events of the nightmare. If she has the same, recurring nightmare, look for a theme in the nightmare to help identify a potential stressor.
Find out if there is anything your teen is stressed about such as school, sports or friends. Talking about those stresses. Practicing stress relief activities, such as deep breathing can help eliminate the stress according to the Mayo Clinic.
Help your teen rewrite the ending of his nightmare. This is called imagery rehearsal therapy. Ask your teen to write down a different, happy ending to the nightmare. He should then relax, imagine and review the ending on a regular basis until the nightmare goes away.
Establish a sleep schedule if your teen doesn’t already have one. She should go to bed at a regular time and ensure she gets enough sleep so that she’s not tired during the day.
Limit the amount and type of media your teen is exposed to before bed. Violent television, music or video games might lead to nightmares once your teen is asleep according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Ask your teen if there is anything you can do when he goes to bed that will help him feel more comfortable. He might feel too big and tough to ask, but a nightlight or leaving his door open might help.
Suggest your teen avoids caffeine and late night snacks.
Encourage your teen to exercise at some point during the day, but not right before bed.
Contact your child’s doctor if the nightmares continue. An evaluation can determine if an underlying medical problem is contributing to the sleep disturbances.