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As parents and care givers the main priority in life is ensuring the health and wellbeing of our little ones. Whilst we may spend countless hours obsessing about what they're going to eat next, what clothes they need, how they're getting on at school, and, crucially, that they're happy and healthy, there's one very important area of our children's wellbeing that can sometimes get overlooked:

QUALITY OF SLEEP

Good sleep underpins almost every aspect of a child's overall health and development. It supports physical growth, cognitive progress and emotional regulation. Sufficient sleep also strengthens the immune system, enhances attention and concentration, and promotes better behavior and social interactions. Additionally, it contributes to kids' overall well-being and reduces the risk of both physical and mental health issues.

A TOTAL NIGHTMARE

As we know - whether we fall into it or have it drummed into us - rituals rule when it comes to children, and establishing consistent bedtime routines and creating a conducive sleep environment are absolutely essential for ensuring kids get the recommended amount of sleep for their age, thus setting them up for a healthy and thriving life.

So far so good, but what about when something out of everyone's control comes along and undoes all this.

We are of course talking about nightmares.

They're a nightmare - both figuratively and literally!

WHAT ARE NIGHTMARES?

Anyone who has ever had a nightmare - which is surely all of us - will know, nightmares are intense and distressing dreams that can cause the dreamer to wake up feeling scared, anxious, or upset.

Nightmares tend to involve vivid and realistic scenarios that evoke strong, usually negative emotions. Nightmares can vary in content and themes but commonly include situations such as being chased, attacked, or trapped, encountering monsters or supernatural beings, reliving a traumatic event or experiencing a threat to yours or your loved ones' happiness or safety.

During a nightmare, the dreamer usually feels a sense of helplessness, fear or impending danger. They may experience a rapid heartbeat, sweating, or even physical sensations associated with the dream, such as pain or discomfort. Upon waking up, individuals often have difficulty falling back asleep, feel anxious or unsettled and are left with a clear and unpleasant memory of the dream.

Nightmares can be more prevalent during times of stress, anxiety, or emotional upheaval. Factors such as trauma, significant life changes or specific phobias can contribute to the occurrence of nightmares. In some cases, nightmares may be associated with underlying sleep disorders or medications that affect sleep patterns.

On this note, it's important to differentiate nightmares from night terrors, which are a distinct sleep disorder. Night terrors typically occur during deep non-REM sleep and are characterised by intense fear or terror, accompanied by physical symptoms like screaming, thrashing, or sleepwalking. Unlike nightmares, individuals experiencing night terrors often have no memory of the episode upon waking up.
While occasional nightmares are considered normal, persistent or recurrent nightmares that significantly disrupt sleep or cause distress may indicate a need for further evaluation or professional assistance.

WHY DO CHILDREN HAVE NIGHTMARES?

Whilst most children will experience the occasional nightmare, frequent or intense nightmares can disrupt sleep and cause anxiety.

There are several schools of thought as to why children seem to have nightmares more often than adults, and the prevalence of nightmares amongst children can vary at different ages.

Reasons your child may be having nightmares include:

Imagination and Emotional Development

Children have active imaginations and are still developing their emotional coping skills. Nightmares can be a manifestation of their fears, anxieties, or struggles in understanding and managing emotions. Common themes include monsters, animals, or situations that evoke fear

Stress and Anxiety

Children, like adults, can experience stress and anxiety related to various factors such as school, family dynamics, social interactions, or significant life changes. These emotional challenges can manifest in nightmares as the child's subconscious attempts to process and cope with these stressors

Traumatic Events

Children who have experienced traumatic events, such as accidents, natural disasters, or witnessing violence, may have nightmares as a result. Nightmares can be a way for their minds to process and make sense of the disturbing experiences they have been through

Sleep Disorders

Certain sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or sleepwalking, can increase the likelihood of nightmares. Disrupted sleep patterns and poor sleep quality can contribute to nightmares in children

HOW TO PREVENT CHILDREN HAVING NIGHTMARES?

Establish a calming bedtime routine

A calming bedtime routine can help your child feel relaxed and secure as they drift off to sleep. This could include a warm bath, reading a book together, or listening to soothing music. Whatever routine you establish, try to keep it consistent to help signal to your child that it's time to wind down and sleep

Reduce exposure to scary content

While it's impossible to completely shield your child from all scary content, reducing their exposure can help to reduce the frequency and intensity of nightmares. This may mean avoiding certain TV shows or movies, or limiting exposure to news stories that may be distressing for young children

Create a comfortable sleep environment

Ensure that your child's sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to sleep. This may mean adjusting the temperature, using blackout curtains to reduce light, or providing a favourite cuddly toy for comfort

Encourage relaxation techniques

Teaching your child relaxation techniques can help them feel more in control and calm in the face of anxiety-provoking thoughts. This could include deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation

Address underlying anxieties

Sometimes nightmares can be a symptom of underlying anxieties or stressors in your child's life. If you suspect this may be the case, try to identify any potential sources of stress and work with your child to develop coping strategies

Seek professional help if necessary

If your child's nightmares are frequent or severe, it may be worth seeking professional help. A child psychologist or therapist can help to identify any underlying issues and work with your child to develop strategies for managing anxiety and promoting better sleep

BEST WAY TO STOP KIDS NIGHTMARES

As touched on above, one simple but highly effectively stragegy in helping to stop children having nightmares or being afraid of going to bed, is reading to children at bedtime.

Provided, of course, you have the time and resources, reading bedtime stories with your little one is a wonderful and beneficial activity that has numerous advantages. It not only fosters a love for books but also plays a crucial role in a child's cognitive, emotional, and social development.

Choosing gentle, bedtime fairy stories can contribute to preventing nightmares by creating positive and pleasant imagery before sleep.

Such stories often have a sense of wonder, joy, and happy endings, which can alleviate any fears or anxieties a child may have, promoting more peaceful sleep.
The right bedtime story will create a sense of relaxation and comfort for children, helping them transition from the activities of the day to a more peaceful and restful state. Feeling safe and secure is paramount in reducing the likelihood of experiencing nightmares.

Reading stories together at bedtime also creates the opportunity for special bonding time between children and their parents or caregivers. Strong emotional connections and feelings of security can positively impact a child's overall well-being and reduce stress, leading to a more peaceful, nightmare-free sleep.

SWEET DREAMS

Recommended by parents, teachers, doctors, counsellors, linguists and - most importantly - children themselves - one such book, is hotly antipated, newly published, children's good night story:

THE BEDTIME RHYME BY DAVID TURVEY & ABBY HOBBS

Here at Carousel, it gives us the greatest of pleasure to bring to you David Turvey and Abby Hobbs' debut collaboration; an exceptional, bed time story book, designed to transport young minds to a magical realm of imagination and wonder.

The Bedtime Rhyme ingeniously intertwines David's spellbinding poem with Abby's sumlime artwork, to create an enchanting journey, captivating young readers as the story gradually counts down from fifty, unfolding a dream-like tale.

With its mesmerizing narrative and beautiful, detailed pictures this book is designed enthrall young readers, creating a soothing bedtime experience that is sure to lull them into peaceful slumber.

This unique childrens' storybook has been especially crafted to combat nightmares and create positive bedtime associations, promoting peaceful sleep and happy dreams!

In our role as caregivers to the next generation, we can only try our best to nurture our children's sleep and protect them from unsettling nightmares.

By following these strategies, we hope you can excentuate a bedtime routine filled with warmth and tranquility and create a haven of peaceful sleep, where nightmares hold no sway.

In embracing the magic of reading calming stories, such as The Bedtime Rhyme, we're certain your little ones will be whisked away to a world of comfort and security as they drift off to dreamland.

And, through developing an extra safe and supportive environment, open communication is cultivated, which is proven to help our children cope with their anxieties and fears.
By addressing any underlying concerns, we pave the way for peaceful nights and sweet dreams.

With love, care, and a touch of bedtime magic, we ensure our children wake up each morning with hearts full of joy and ready to embrace the wonders of a new day.