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DD is having bad dreams/nightmares and is anxious
Update post #14: sleep has improved


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#1 Paddlepop

Posted 20 December 2012 - 05:21 PM

Sorry about the marathon post. I just wanted to fill in the background as thoroughly as possible.

My DD is 2y11mths. She will be 3 in late January. For the last month or so she has been having increasing amounts of scary dreams and it has now reached the point that she doesn't want to go to sleep because she doesn't want to see the "scary TV" in her head.

She has had night terrors in the past, so we are familiar with them and how to deal with them. These aren't night terrors because she can tell us what has happened in the dream. She will have multiple scary dreams each night now, and has refused to have a nap for the last few days. She isn't ready to drop a nap yet so she needs to have it.

She has reached the point that we have to sit beside her bed and reassure her and comfort her to get her to go sleep. This can take 30 to 45 minutes or longer until the sleep overwhelms her and she finally sleeps. We don't want her to become reliant on needing us there to go to sleep. She has always been a champion sleeper with no problems about going to sleep or staying asleep apart from teething and night terrors. We don't co-sleep with her and don't plan to start. The only times she has slept in our bed has been when she has been really ill, like she was 2 weeks ago with a vomiting bug.

DH had both night terrors and nightmares as a child. I had nightmares. DH has ASD and ADHD. We both have depression and anxiety. DD was diagnosed with verbal dyspraxia and motor dyspraxia 2 weeks ago by an experienced speech pathologist. We will be looking into a comprehensive diagnosis by a paediatrician next year.

Her dreams have two common themes. The first is that she is at a doctor/dentist/speech therapist and they cause her pain in her mouth. The second is that she is alone at the shops and can't find either DH or myself. She will wake up crying and screaming. She gets so anxious when she tells us what has happened. I knew that she would be prone to anxiety because DH and I both have depression and anxiety (both treated). I just didn't think that she would get it so young. I think that the poor little thing thought that she actually left her bed and went to the places she has dreamt about. I think that we've managed to convince her that she stays in the bed even while she is dreaming.

DD's diet is virtuallly free of additives because she reacts to them, she doesn't have junk food, is already gluten free because she reacts to it (I'm coeliac), and has vitamin/mineral/fish oil supplements to help cover any nutritional deficiencies from her generally picky eating. She has a night light at night because she hates being in the complete dark (so do I) and has plenty of cuddly toys in her bed. She is comfortable with a ceiling fan and pedestal fan to provide breeze. She goes to bed after being brushed, bathed, moisturised, dressed and cuddled.

I think that part of her anxiety comes from having seen DH and I both go through operations and their recoveries this year. I had my gallbladder out at the start of the year (day surgery) but that recovery was quite easy. A few months ago I had all 4 wisdom teeth out under GA (day surgery), and the recovery involved a fair bit of blood and pain. Last month DH had his tonsils removed and stayed overnight in hospital. His recovery was quite painful and he had to be readmitted to hospital for further surgery because of uncontrollable bleeding. Unfortunately DD saw him coughing/vomiting up the blood before he left in an ambulance. He was home about 12 hours later after the readmission and surgery.

Two weeks ago I fell down the bus steps as I was getting off while holding DD. I hurt both ankles and one even has a hairline fracture. I'm on crutches at home, and a wheelchair at the shops. DD wasn't hurt in the fall apart from a bruised/grazed elbow and some shock. She did see me in a world of pain with the ankles until DH came home and looked after me. I tried to minimise it around her but it really hurt.

DD has seen two speech pathologists this year, a paediatric dentist and an oral surgeon. She will be having surgery to release her tongue tie at the end of January. That would probably explain the dreams about being hurt by those professionals, not that any of them did hurt her in real life.

We have never lost her at the shops or anywhere else. She has never been alone and had to find us, like she does in her dreams.

If DD's sleep and anxiety continues like this I will take her to the GP to get advice after the Christmas/New Year holidays. I'm hoping to improve the situation before it gets to the stage of needing professional help.

After that marathon of background I guess that my question is this: how do I help my little girl to feel confident to go to sleep on her own and reassure her that dreams aren't real, no matter how scary they are?

Edited by Paddlepop, 09 January 2013 - 12:00 AM.


#2 bambiigrrl

Posted 20 December 2012 - 05:36 PM

jeez thats a tough one op, i really feel for you. Maybe you could buy her a new stuffed toy and tell her he has magical powers and will protect her while she sleeps? Or maybe consider co sleeping, even just have her on a mattress in your room so she feels safer? Just for a while until she gets over it? I am sure the pediatrician  will have loads of ideas on how you can tackle this. Good luck op and keep us updated on her progress original.gif bbighug.gif

#3 Paddlepop

Posted 20 December 2012 - 05:42 PM

She has her Hoot the Owl toy that sings if you press his wing, and she believes that he watches over her as she sleeps. Sometimes we'll hear his song on the baby monitor so we know that she will listen to him if she wants to.

I really don't want to do co-sleeping because I have a feeling that she will love it so much that she won't go back to her own bed. Then we'll just have the problem of getting her back into her own bed. I'd rather keep her in her own bed from the start. Plus she like to "starfish" in the bed and takes up a lot of room! Poor DH tends to get only a tiny bit of bed to sleep on when she has slept in our bed.

#4 Leafprincess

Posted 20 December 2012 - 06:00 PM

Poor little tyke

A friend of mine started her little one on children's meditation.
He uses it when he gets "worms in his tummy" feeling (anxiety) to make the worms go away.

I'm not sure where you are located but maybe something to look into?

If you are in Brisbane i can recommend the place she takes her little one.

Also hope you recover from the fall quickly- poor thing!

#5 Paddlepop

Posted 20 December 2012 - 06:07 PM

Yes I am in Brisbane! Please PM me the details. I hate seeing DD so upset and anxious.

I'm recovering from the fall. The bruises are fading, and the sprains are healing. I've sprained my ankles many times before, just not both at the same time!

#6 José

Posted 20 December 2012 - 07:49 PM

Perhaps you could talk about what needs to happen in the dreams for them to have a happy ending and really focus on that.
Another idea to help with falling asleep is a dino snores CD.

#7 Ines07

Posted 20 December 2012 - 08:16 PM

Maybe try taking her to a dr/dentist/speech therapist again and showing her they're not scary and make it a fun & positive experience for her, even giving her a treat immediately after or during the appointment. It sounds like she is probably traumatised from seeing you and your husband hurt this year & relates it back to her own experiences.Then also take her to a shopping centre & show her what to do if she gets lost and give her a name tag/bracelet to wear to reassure her that you'll always find her.If these ideas don't work or there's no improvement soon, maybe see a child psychologist. I don't think meds would be the answer at this age as someone else suggested.

#8 MAGS24

Posted 20 December 2012 - 08:51 PM

Have you tried a night light? or a music light projector? That seemed to help my DS1 when he was waking up from night terrors. He is now five and has three different night lights and glow in the dark planets and stars all over his wall.

#9 Paddlepop

Posted 20 December 2012 - 09:25 PM

Thank you all for the ideas so far. Please suggest more!!

Ines07 DD's experience with the health professionals has only been positive. She really wants to go back to the speech pathologist and play with her toys and sing songs with her. Unfortunately she is booked up for the first few months of next year so we are waiting for an appointment with her. The next time she sees the oral surgeon will be at the hospital just before her operation. She loved him when we last saw him (he also did my wisdom teeth) and was dancing around the consultation room. Her mouth fears probably stem from the awful time she had with teething. It was really painful for her. Her teething fully finished in about June this year.

DH and DD have discussed getting a lost child ID bracelet and she seemed really excited by the idea. I'll look for one when we are at the shops next. I hadn't considered explaining to her about what to do if she was lost, so we'll do that too when we are next at the shops.

MAGS24 She already has two night lights. One is the night light function on the baby monitor, and the other is a rechargeable dinosaur that goes through multiple colours. This one is tucked into bed with her so she can play with it and cuddle it, so I don't think another night light will help her. We have glow in the dark stars and moons but we rent so we can't put them up unfortunately. I'd also be worried that the blu-tack or other adhesive would melt in Brisbane's current weather and they would fall on DD during the night!

feliz6 We have tried to talk to her about having happy dreams, and talk to her quietly about good and happy things that we have done throughout the day as we are helping her go to sleep. We try to fill her head with positive thoughts and no negative thoughts.

The Dinosnores CDs look really good! I had a listen to a few samples and they might be exactly what she needs. We had some success the other night when DH recorded himself talking to her on a digital voice recorder and then left it playing on a loop. Unfortunately she then played with it and decided to record herself, and recorded over most of DH's voice! And then it went flat and needed to be recharged.

We will be looking into professional help if DD's sleep anxiety continues.

Does anyone else have any more ideas?

#10 Escapin

Posted 20 December 2012 - 09:33 PM

Wow you're having a bad run sad.gif Hope things improve generally for you original.gif Re your LO, I know that I have terrible dreams if I eat cheese before sleeping or if I'm too hot. And maybe she has too many stuffed toys in her cot? If she rolls around a lot she might sort get stuck against them and then have nasty dreams as a result? Hope you get some answers soon.

#11 Paddlepop

Posted 20 December 2012 - 09:41 PM

Escapin Her bad dreams seem to be unrelated to foods. She doesn't eat much cheese anyway. She has heaps of soft toys in her bed and usually buries her face in one when she is sleeping. We will gently move her head away from the toy but before long she will have her face in the toy again. When she slept in our bed 2 weeks ago when she had a vomiting bug she buried her face in us instead. She probably does have too many toys in her bed but she keeps putting them in there even when I take them out. I'll try removing some again. Thanks for the ideas.

#12 JoIsMe

Posted 20 December 2012 - 09:52 PM

Sounds like our DD except she doesn't remember her dreams. She already has phases of sleepwalking. We co sleep half the night. She has to go to sleep in her own bed and then some time during the night she ends up in ours. She has just gotten over 'I never want to sleep again'  phase, at least I hope so. We have had a handful of full nights since she was born (she is now 3). We have a night light, tried special toys, she has food intolerances too, which makes it worse but when her diet is good, the sleep issue doesn't go away.  

One solution we have stumbled on s that mum and dad have an 8 month old puppy. DD is currently staying there. When the puppy goes to sleep, DD goes to sleep, they exhaust each other, and for the first time ever, she took herself off for a day sleep, and my Dad managed to put her in bed and walk out straight away and she went to sleep. No idea how we are going replicate that though!

Good luck.

#13 Paddlepop

Posted 21 December 2012 - 02:36 PM

DD didn't want to sleep again last night. We left a radio on in her room so she would have something to listen to (she LOVES music) and she had a Little Golden Book in bed to look at. We talked to her about changing the scary dreams into good dreams by changing the ending. For example if she is walking around at the shops and can't find us, I told her to turn around and look because then she'll see that we were walking behind her the whole time. That made her happy when she thought about it. There was lots of crying, protesting and reassuring to get her to eventually go to sleep.

When she woke up today she cried and yelled out in an upset way (like she always does these days), and I went into her room and got her up. Instead of talking only about the scary dream, she told me about it and then added a different happier ending and was smiling. It was a relief to see that smile.

JoIsMe Maybe you need to get a puppy?  tongue.gif My DD loves my mum and dad's little fox terrier. We were planning to stay with them for Christmas but I have a miserable cold that won't go away so we've had to cancel and stay home. I don't want to make my family sick, especially my elderly grandparents who seem to end up in hospital whenever they get a cold/cough. Anyway, DD and the foxy adore each other and run around like lunatics together, and try to lick each other. I know that she would get exhausted from playing with the dog and it might help with her sleeping but we can't do that at the moment.

I still need more ideas. Does anyone else have any about how I can reassure my anxious DD and help her relax enough to go to sleep on her own?

#14 Paddlepop

Posted 08 January 2013 - 11:58 PM

I thought that I would update about DD's sleep problems.

In desperation and with all 3 of us in need of a good night's sleep we did let DD cosleep with us for 2 nights. The first night she just slept out of exhaustion. The second night she decided it was far too much fun to sleep when Mum and Dad are on hand to play with. She went back to her own bed after that.

Her sleep and anxiety are improving, largely due to my DH putting in a huge effort with her. For things like this he has more patience and is less likely to give into her big blue eyes than I am. He has sat with her and soothed her to sleep for 45+minutes if needed. He has also worked out that she will stir with a bad dream within about 15 minutes of going to sleep, and if he races into her room and comforts her ASAP she will stay asleep and go into a more peaceful sleep.

We talk about DD's bad dreams with her and help her to come up with ideas to change them into good dreams. That seems to really help her to feel better once she is awake and forget the bad dream faster.

We also bought her some Giggle and Hoot (just check the ABC website if you have never heard of them) sleep themed things. We bought her two books about the Night Watch, Hoot's Lullaby or something like that. We've only given her one so far that features Jimmy Giggle and Hoot flying around in pjs amongst the stars. She absolutely loves it. She now likes to tell us that is what she dreams about, and runs around our place pretending to fly like Hoot (he's an owl). We also bought a Giggle and Hoot music CD that is sleep/night themed. It is predominately Jimmy Giggle and Hoot talking and telling each other stories, and only a few sleep themed songs. There is also a Bon Jovi CD of mine that she loves that DH sometimes puts on for her to listen to. DD will insist on having the CD cases in her bed and go to sleep cuddling them and/or Hoot.

Thanks to DH's hard work he can now take DD to bed, sit with her for 5 to 10 minutes quietly talking about things with her, and then put the CD on and leave. She no longer protests or cries. He stays on alert for the first bad dream, soothes her for that, and then generally she sleeps through the night. Amazing! Such a difference to a few weeks ago. We may or may not have bought a particular antihistamine (cough*Phenergan*cough ph34r.gif) to help her sleep but we haven't used it.

A few times I have found DH asleep sitting next to DD's bed, with his arm around her. He has basically done whatever he has needed to in order to help DD sleep with less anxiety. He hates seeing his little girl being upset, and remembers his own childhood bad dreams and nightmares.

We've managed to get her to have a few day naps. That has been such a relief. DH really put in the hard work with her over the Christmas/New Year break.

I bought DD some lost child ID bracelets from an online shop that have room to write both our mobile numbers. DD loves them and seem to have lessened her anxiety and bad dreams about not being able to find us at the shops. We've run through with her what to do if she can't find us at the shops and that has also reassured her.

I have an appointment booked with the GP for Friday to discuss DD's sleep and anxiety to make sure that we haven't missed anything that might be causing her sleep issues.

Thank you to everyone who gave me ideas. I have definitely used some of them with great results.




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