top of page

Is it a nightmare or a night terror?

Is your child waking stressed and upset in the night? Bad dreams can be upsetting and stressful for children and caregivers.

toddler sleep, nightmare, night terror, sleep tips


Night terrors...

⚡️ Usually seen in children 10+ months

⚡️ Usually seen in the first half of the night (before midnight)

⚡️ Child is not aware of your presence, is difficult to wake and wont remember the episode in the morning


🌩 Signals an over active imagination and usually starts 2-3 years old

🌩 Can be worsened by over tiredness and/or over use of screens or inappropriate for age shows.

🌩 Usually happens in the second half of the night (after midnight)

🌩 Child is aware of you in the room and can be woken form the dream-state.

🌩 Child often takes a little longer to resettle after a nightmare - they are scared

🌩 Child vocalises fears, anxieties, bullying or increasing separation anxiety.

🌩 Nightmares commonly run in the family.


For most children nightmares are a normal part of development and do not signal a cause for concern.

Stress, trauma and chronic over tiredness can increase frequency and severity of nightmares.

Here are a few tips to help you all cope with this night activity;

☁️ Ensure your child is on an age appropriate sleep schedule. - over tiredness can worsen night mare activity.

☁️ Offer a calming bedtime routine as an opportunity to wind down and discuss their day

☁️ Avoid screen time in the 1-2 hours before bed

☁️ Ensure screen time is age appropriate

☁️ Try not to dismiss the fear; it is very real to them.

☁️ Avoid trying to stop them thrashing, screaming, moving. It can end in injury for one or both of you. Try to remove all dangers and remain close by until the terror/nightmare has ended

☁️ Stay calm, reassure them you are there, they are safe.

☁️ Avoid "monster sprays" and such like as they can confirm the reality of the fear.

☁️ In daylight hours try to discuss any fears or stressors they may have, a snuggle before bed is a great opportunity to open up a discussion

☁️ Seek professional support if the bad dreams are increasing anxiety or significant traumas or stresses become apparent.

I have worked with many families suffering significant night mares and night terrors and seen dramatic improvements in sleep and wellbeing for the whole family. I would love to support you in the same journey to better sleep. One such family recently wrote a review after 6 months of solid terrors leaving the whole family stressed, shaken and unable to find a solution.

Tessa was an absolute life saver. My two and a half year old has never been a good sleeper. I have felt like a zombie since his birth. I have been in and out of QE2 to seek help, and although helpful, it was Tessa who really helped educate me on my child's sleeping and eating needs. I only wish I had engaged her sooner!"

Sarah, 2021

Sleep deprivation is torture. Tessa Gow is a midwife and certified sleep consultant working with families across the globe. She offers nurturing methods with lasting results. Let her be the support and guidance you need to get through this. On the other side of a consultation with Enhance Sleep is rested, functioning families. Take the first step towards healthy sleep by contacting me today.


Children's dreams and nightmares. McNamara, P. (2016) Psychology Today. Journal link here

Frequent nightmares in Children; Familial Aggregation and associations with Parent-reported behavioural mood problems. Li, S.X. Yu, M. Lam, S. Zhang, J. et al. (2011) Sleep. Journal link here

Night terrors. Van Horn, N.L. Street, M. (2021) National Library Of Medicine . Journal link here


bottom of page