When Do Nightmares Start?

Updated on January 27, 2011
H.X. asks from Los Angeles, CA
9 answers

Hi ladies..
My daughter, almost 2, lately has been waking up and crying once or twice a night... she normally is a very good 'sleeper', we havent had this with her before... is it bad dreams? she woke up HYSTERICAL, took us a while to calm her... What can i do? and how long will it last???
I dont remember my older one going through this...

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answers from Little Rock on

Each of my kids went through a period of waking hysterical about about or around 2 years of age. I assumed it was a bad dream since I could not find any other logical reason for it. My daughter seemed to quit waking hysterical when I started playing a kids music cd in her room with it set to play constant all night. I think maybe it helped to distract her thoughts.

I can remember having nightmares as a kid. I think what was most upsetting was not being about to clear it from my thoughts when I awoke and finding that every time I closed my eyes that it was there again. That is why I think playing a kids music cd in her room might help calm her and distract her thoughts when she awakes from a nightmare. It seemed to work for my daughter and it might be worth the try.

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answers from Modesto on

Sounds like "night terrors" google it.


answers from Dallas on

My DD started doing this at about 12 months old. It's only every so often and I know it's because of a dream, but other than that, not sure if it's a bad dream or just a dream, but either way, I just rock her for a few minutes and then she's fine.



answers from Oklahoma City on

Night terrors ! My DD start when she was 14 months old. Google it.
But is nothing to do , at first we try to soothe her but she keeps crying until I check in the internet. If you talk to her or touch her you become part of her dream and its worst ....so when she start crying and kicking I just stay by her side , not a word maybe my hand on her back without moving it, its work ! 2or 3 min. And she falls asleep again .....that was for maybe 2 months but not every day , then suddenly no more....


answers from San Francisco on

We used to call those night terrors - hysterical, doesn't wake up, often moving/flailing, etc. The not waking up and not quickly calming down is why I thought they were night terrors instead of typical bad dreams. With normal nightmares they would wake up easily, sob a little, snuggle up for hugs, then go right back to sleep. But with the night terrors, it was like we weren't there - the sobbing and screaming would continue unabated sometimes for nearly 10 minutes. We would just sit there and do back rubbing and murmur comforting things.

I've read that night terrors start around age two, and stop around 6. And that they're not that unusual. Wikipedia says 15% of kids get them. Both my daughters had them. Older daughter's faded pretty quick - by 4. My younger girl is almost 6 and she had them worse. Seems to be slowing down this last year, though.

I've never heard of needing a psychologist to diagnose them, but maybe that's new.

I feel for you. I hate them. Hard to see my girls so upset and not be able to calm them down. They always seem fine the next morning though.

We haven't found the music to help the terrors. The kids rarely get what I call "normal" nightmares since we did the music though.


answers from Salt Lake City on

Right around this age, they do have night terrors/nightmares and it depends on the child as to how long this will last but it seems to me that it went away between 6 mos-year. One of my children had it worse than the other. I'm not sure if it's just the neurons in the brain developing and their thought patterns and image recognition are continually gaining strength or what makes the night terror happen, but it is NORMAL and usually a stage. I seem to remember reading something in the What To Expect books.



answers from Houston on

My daughter is almost 4 and my husband and myself had had this dispute going on for more than 2 years.
My Husbands opinion; They have nightmares, night terrors.

My opinion; They are little kids having dreams that they dont understand.

My DD could be having a dream about me walking in the park...does that mean its a nightmare? No.

BTW...night "terrors" from what I read, usually have to be identified by a pshycologist. (sp? sorry)

The best way to help? Rub their back, talk softly and wait for them to go back to sleep. After all, they are young..thats what they do.


answers from Norfolk on

My son started with night mares around 2 1/2 yrs old. It can last years. Even adults can wake up from a bad dream and have trouble falling asleep again.
Eventually you can tell your child if they don't like a dream they can change the channel. It's a directed dreaming technique that gives the dreamer a bit of control some of the time.


answers from Kansas City on

it doesn't matter what you call it, but yes it is normal for this age. they are starting to develop fears for the first time. it can be very scary to realize that the world is not all rainbows and unicorns - and a two year old is beginning to realize that. you may start to notice she gets scared of things she didnt before, like loud noises, strangers, etc. my son developed a fear of spiders around this time, and train whistles. the "monsters under the bed" idea often starts at this age. we had to do spider spray for a couple months to chase the "spiders" away, before he would go to sleep. totally normal. just love her and be there for her, she will adjust.

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