Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Nightmares - Treatments

In most cases, treatment for nightmares is not necessary. For patients who have nightmare disorder and experience severe sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness, treatment from a behavioral sleep medicine specialist is recommended. 

Types of Therapy

Counseling – A therapist can help you address some of the underlying causes of your nightmares. This will require processing your thoughts and feelings. More intensive counseling may be needed if the nightmares are caused by a traumatic event.

Systematic desensitization – This approach involves gradual exposure to the disturbing or frightening dream content, with the intention of lessoning your emotional response. Systematic desensitization is most useful when recurrent nightmares appear after severe trauma.

Stress management – Managing stress in your life can help you manage your nightmares. This may include relaxation training so that you are able to reduce the anxiety or tension that keeps you from falling asleep, so you can go back to slight after a nightmare.

Tips for Parents

Most children have nightmares. These tips may help if your child has problems with nightmares:

  • Let your child sleep with a special blanket or stuffed animal for security.
  • Plug in a dim nightlight so your child’s bedroom feels safe.
  • Respond quickly to comfort your child when he or she wakes up from a nightmare.
  • Discuss nightmares openly with your child during the day.
  • Assure your child that it is normal for children and even adults to have nightmares.
  • Talk to your child’s pediatrician if recurring nightmares greatly disturb your child.
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