Frequently Asked Questions
Nightmares/Night Terrors

Nightmares are experienced by 20-39% of children between the ages of 5 and 12 and decrease in frequency as children get older. Children usually wake during the REM stage of sleep (typically between 4 and 6 am) and are sometimes able to describe the frightening episode in detail. The dreams are often vivid and have detailed plots. Children often have difficulty falling back asleep after waking. Helpful steps you can take include:

  • Reassure and cuddle the child
  • Provide a night light
  • Talk about the dream during the day and come up with a happy ending
  • No scary movies/TV before bed (No scary movies before age 13)
  • Provide a safe sleep environment by moving any objects the child could hurt themselves on should they wake and get out of bed during the night

Night terrors are experienced by 1-4% of children and are most common between four and 12 years of age. Night terrors occur during deep sleep early in the sleep cycle and are characterized by blood curdling screams and an inability to recall the incident after the fact. Your child may be difficult to arouse and seem confused during such an episode. Children typically "outgrow" night terrors before adolescence and usually only need comfort and reassurance after an episode. It is important to provide your child with a safe sleep environment to prevent them from harming themselves if they were to get out of bed while disoriented.


American Academy of Family Physicians

Nightmares and Disorders of Dreaming (American Family Physician April 1, 2000,