It is normal for children to have bad dreams and ask their parents to check underneath the bed every now and then. However, a recent study suggests that children who have nightmares or night terrors frequently are at a higher risk for psychotic experiences in adolescence.
The Huffington Post tells us that the study involved 6,796 children (50% were girls). Their parents were interviewed about the frequency of their children’s nightmares when the children were between the ages of 2.5 and 9. When the children reached the age of 12, they were interviewed directly about night terrors, sleepwalking and any psychotic experiences that may have happened in the past six months.
Children who had frequent nightmares before the age of 12 had a 3.5 times higher risk of psychotic experiences in adolescence. Researchers did make adjustments for emotional or behavioral problems, sex, IQ, family adversity, and neurological problems.
Parents shouldn’t be worried as 3 in every 4 children experience nightmares at a young age, but it is important to notice when the nightmares are increasing and continuing into adolescence.
Promoting healthy sleep hygiene for children is a great way to calm them before bed and make sure they are getting the amount of sleep they need. Parents are encouraged to avoid giving out sugary drinks before bed and to remove anything stimulating from the bedroom at night, such as video games.
Be a role model for healthy sleep habits and encourage your children to follow. As an added benefit, studies do show that children that get enough sleep are better behaved. Not sure how much sleep your children need? Take look at the recommendations shared by the National Sleep Foundation to help every member of your family get the proper rest each night.