A nightmare is a bad dream. They can make children feel anxious or uneasy, but it is especially important to remind them that nightmares are not real and cannot do any harm.
The webpage KidsHealth, explains that when the brain goes to sleep it does not simply turn off. Instead, it continues to work and goes through different stages of sleep including the REM cycle (rapid eye movement), a phase in which the eyes move under the eyelids from one side to the other. This is the cycle during which people can have dreams that can be terrifying or unsettling.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that nightmares generally begin before age 10 and are almost always considered a normal part of childhood. They can be triggered by seemingly routine events and can continue through adulthood as a way for the brain to deal with the stresses and fears of daily life.
Nightmares can be caused by:
- Taking a new drug prescribed by your physician
- Abruptly abstaining from alcohol
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating just before going to bed
- Taking hallucinogenic drugs
- Being sick with a fever
- Taking over-the-counter medications or treatments to induce sleep
- Stopping the consumption of certain drugs such as sleeping pills or pain killers
Practicing healthy sleep hygiene can help prevent having nightmares. It is therefore recommended to go to bed and wake up at the same time as well as avoid the prolonged use of sedatives, caffeine and other stimulants.