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.