13 answers

2 Year Old with Nightmares

My 23 mo son, who has been sleeping through the night for a while now, has been waking up crying with nightmares. It has happened three times this week and the real problem is that he can not settle back to sleep for 3-4 hours. We are exhausted and not sure how to deal with this. Initially he is really scared and we try and comfort him, but he doesn't want to stay in his room so after about an hour of this, we take him to our bed where he can't settle either (he is just so restless). I don't know what to do, we have tried to not pick him up and comfort him in his crib but he freaks out, so we are left with little sleep these nights. Nothing obvious has changed with his daily activities or sleep routine and he goes to bed without problems. Anyone out there have any experience with this issue. Any suggestions of how to help him settle back to sleep quicker. Do you think we shouldn't bring him into our room, even though it is the only way to settle him (he never sleeps with us thats why it is weird)? Please help!!!

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Do you use any lullaby music? We have a CD by The Wiggles. Its a comfort to my kids when they are restless, or had a bad dream/can't sleep. Even my 7 yo who claims to hate the music. Its a different story when shes had a bad dream! :) I also used to sit with them until they went back to sleep, or when i got up to leave if they popped there eyes open i'd lie & say i had to goto the bathroom or something. They usually went back to sleep. I try not to bring them to bed, it starts a bad habit, & its too crowded.

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my son (who is 15 now) use to have nightmares at around 2 years old and a bit older too. What helped him was that I comforted him by asking him about the nightmare, hugging etc. Once we were through that I would have him lay back down with me beside him and would tell him in a gentle voice to think about something that makes him happy (you could have suggestions). Once you knonw what it is that he wants to think about, have him close his eyes while you talk about the thing that he wants to think about that makes him happy. Hopefully this will help him relax and go back to sleep in his own bed. Let me know how things work out.

My daughter is 23 1/2 months and doing the same thing i so feel your pain. She would wake up around 12 everynight. So they had me waking her @ 11:30 and let her know it is still bed time and jsut hold her for about 10 - 15 min. dont let her play and i would just rock her and she will go back to bed. They told me to do this for a week and see how it works. It has been working for us. It has been 5 days, and still going strong. God luck with your little one, keep me posted on how it works

Hi D.,

As usual, all wonderful suggestions by the mamasource mothers.

Here are a couple of links to information about childhood nightmares:




They all offer similar information to each other and to what the other mom's have suggested.

Good luck to you and your little one.

V. S, LICSW (and mom)

Poor everyone! I hate when my daughter gets into this pattern. Now that she's a little older (3.5) she can wake up and just get walked back to her room, but that wasn't the case for the longest time. What we found worked best was just to put out a pad on her floor, and one of us would go in and sleep there. She never settled down in our bed either. Of course, we then had to break her of that habit, but we did that after we all (finally) had a few better nights rest. Also, I wouldn't question him too much about the dreams - he's too little to understand what a dream is, and talking to him about it just validates that it's "real." I do think that reassuring him that he's safe and helping him think of happy things is a good idea.


I would try to avoid bringing him into your bed if it's possible. Is there a chair in his room that you could sit in and comfort him there. Once they get a taste of being with mom and dad in their bed, it's hard to get them back into their own (I'm still dealing with this with my almost 3 year old daughter). I would do some research on nighmares in children that young - see if that's a normal thing at this age. Maybe it's just a phase. Their level of exposure to scary things is usually pretty low at that age - so what would be causing nightmares like that. Maybe try to be conscious of the tv shows/movies he's watching and tell any babysitters the same thing. Characters that might seem innocent to adults could be scary to young children. I hope this phase passes soon and he gets back to normal. Lack of sleep is terrible - I know.


My daughter experienced night terrors and still does at age 4. My best advice is get him something special to sleep with that he picked out. Also, try to make a dream catcher. We bought the supplies at Michael's. Each morning we shook out the beads which caught all the bad dreams. I also stopped taking her into my room and made a little bed to sleep in her room. Each couple of nights, I got closer to the door. Eventually after about a week and a half, things got better. We also had to change her bedtime a little. She was so overtired that she was not sleeping well. So, check what time his nap is and also what time he is going to bed. You should have some success! Hope it works out!

Hi there, my daughter went through the same thing and this is what we did. We brought her to Build a Bear and had her choose a bear and make it. As we did so we told her that this one is a magical bear that keeps the bad dreams away. It really worked! She sleeps with her bear every night and the dreams just seemed to disappear. The few times she had one her bear had fallen out of her bed. goodl uck, the night terrors should pass.

I am not sure if this will help, but we went through the same thing when my child was 2 yrs old. The doctor said it was night terrors. My husband and I took turns sleeping on the couch because my son would scream if we brought him upstairs. Even if we let him fall deep asleep first. Eventually, we got through this. It was hard, but be patient, if it is night terrors it won't last forever.

hi my daughter who is now turning 5 went through this when she was around 2.wakeing up screaming terrifed.it would take ages to settle her also.i realised that on nights she would do this that she would be after eating cheese a little before bed,when i stopped giving her cheese a few hours before bed the nightmares stopped!!!!another friend of mine had the same issue and she stopped giving cheese before bed and it worked for her also.hope this helps.

Do you use any lullaby music? We have a CD by The Wiggles. Its a comfort to my kids when they are restless, or had a bad dream/can't sleep. Even my 7 yo who claims to hate the music. Its a different story when shes had a bad dream! :) I also used to sit with them until they went back to sleep, or when i got up to leave if they popped there eyes open i'd lie & say i had to goto the bathroom or something. They usually went back to sleep. I try not to bring them to bed, it starts a bad habit, & its too crowded.

My son went through this, still does once in a while. A few ideas: if you have another place he can sleep (spare bed, couch, mat on the floor), try moving him there when he wakes up. With my son, he thought there were monsters in his closet and under the bed, so getting him away from that would calm him down (short term solution, of course). It took a few weeks for my son to deal with his monsters, and many nights I slept in his room.
And keep in mind, 2:00 AM is probably not the best time to conquer his fears, just help him get back to sleep and talk with him about it the next day.

We are pretty lucky we didn't go through this. When my daughter started to talk about scary monsters, we gave her power.

What we did was have her favorite bear on the lookout all night long, because everyone knows monsters are afraid of bears. Also, scary monsters, listen when kids say "go away, scary monster".

In short, we never told her they don't exist, when they do (at least to her). We never tell her to grow up.. we just give her tools she feels comfortable with. Find a way to take the power away from the 'scary monster' that your child can use and understand. Is the monster afraid of blue? Have a blue blanket on the bed. Is it afraid of water? Have a sippy with water nearby. Whatever it takes to have your child feel in control.

But, in the meantime.. evaluate the programs your son watches. Even the most innocent movies seem to have mean characters! Disney flicks are loaded with them!

Good luck!

My son went through this for years. Very scary. He would scream and act out as if was being hurt, but he was not awake. I couldn't rationalize wih him and he seemed very far away. It was painful to watch and to be unable to help him. One thing we did is to talk to him a very soothing voice and tell im we were sending a big airplane to come get him and brng him back home. We would say, "Here comes the plane! Do you see it? And you are getting on it and now you are coming home. There now you are home and you are safe and in your bed in our house." This actually worked and he would quiet down. I then did some research into night terrors and found that artificial food dyes and sweeteners are huge sources of night terrorss in young children(and some adults). We eliminated all artifical food dyes and sweeteners and preservitives for some time. This took a bit of effort but it worked! The night terrors simply vanished! I was amazed. Red dye # 40 is notorious for bad dreams. High fructose corn syrup is evil! Stay away from both of them if you can.

Good luck!

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