It's the middle of the night and after a long day you are finally sound asleep when across the vast land of dreams you hear a wail or feel a tug on your blanket. As you rouse yourself back to the waking world it begins to dawn upon you that, yes, there is a noise or a presence nearby. Then jerking fully awake a small frightened child greets you with a terrified need to be calmed and comforted.
Many kids (and their parents) suffer from nightmares and night terrors. From my experience it can be a single incident or happen over many nights while the child is working through what ever is bothering them.
Over the years both of my kids have had bouts of insomnia often accompanied by nightmares and even, at times, night terrors. I have tried many things to help them. Often the most important thing is helping them figure out what is causing them stress and then to guide them on working through their feelings.
When a child is having repeat nightmares it is also really important to look at what influences are in their lives. Are they watching scary shows? Is something happening at school that is bothering them? Are they about to make a big transition in their life such as going back to school? Or has something changed recently in their life?
When one of my kids was getting ready to start kindergarten she began having night terrors. During the day we took time to talk about her fears and her excitement. We also took some precautionary steps before bed at night to help her get a better sleep. Ultimately her night terrors completely stopped once school started but the steps we took in the mean time helped to lessen her fears.
Here are some of our most successful night-time strategies and helpers.
Journaling And Drawing Pictures
When something is really bothering my kids I always encourage them to express their feelings.
Write about it or draw a picture!
Both of my kids have journals by their beds with writing and drawing implements. Give your child a special journal just for their dreams and night-time thoughts. Encourage them to get what ever is in their head bothering them down on paper.
They can also use their journal to write/draw about things they love and that make them happy. This will help set the tone for a nice sleep by allowing them to go to sleep with good happy energy.
Flower essences are extremely gentle and wonderful for helping people on an emotional, mental and spiritual level.
Dr. Edward Bach originally discovered and formulated the first 38 flower essences. Well known and beloved by many, Rescue Remedy is a blend of five of the original flower essences. It is powerful during times of emotional crisis. I have found that it works great for kids suffering from nightmares and night terrors.
My favorite way to administer Rescue Remedy to kids is with a nice simple massage. Put a few drops of Rescue Remedy in your hand, let it warm for a moment and then rub gently into the child's feet or lower back*. This almost always sends my little ones right off to dream land. You can do this before bed or when comforting a child in the night.
Adding a few drops of Rescue Remedy to the child's bedside water-glass is also an easy effective way to ease fears through the night.
Other flower essences to consider ~
- St. John's Wort is helpful very sensitive people and brings about a sense of protection and light, indicated where the is a feeling of psychic attack.
- Chamomile eases build-up of tension during the course of the day which can result in nightmares and restless sleep.
- Peony helps folks who are influenced by "negative tendencies [and are] tense and fearful."
This wonderful information is taken largely from "Flower Power" by Anne McIntyre. The study of flower essences is vast. If they appeal to you I highly recommend delving into this amazing field with a good bit of research.
Monster Spray/Sweet Dreams Spray
Make a "monster spray" with your child to keep by their bedside. Encourage them use the spray when they are scared. You can also spray it around their room before you leave for night either to scare away the monsters and make a safe, happy place for sleeping full of light and love (saying this out loud while you are spraying the spray helps engage the child and comfort them).
If you think your child will be scared by the idea of a monster spray because it might confirm to them that monsters are in fact real, you can call it something else like sweet dreams spray or sleepy time spritzer. My youngest was sure that monsters were real so the "monster spray" worked really well for her. We made it with essential oils she picked out that she found comforting and she knew scared away monsters. More than once I found her asleep in her bed with the spray bottle clutched in her tiny little hand.
For complete instructions on making your own monster spray visit Aromatherapy Spritzers under How To Use Herbs. Let your child make their new spray extra powerful by having them decorating a label for the bottle.
Be sure to choose mild essential oils that promote sleep, ease stress/anxiety and appeal to your child.
- atlas cedarwood
- clary sage
- sweet orange
- Australian sandalwood
- petit grain
Important Note: These essential oils are generally considered safe for kids from age 2 and up. If your child is very small and may get into the spray or otherwise misuse it, please store it up out of their reach when you are not in the room with them. Essential oils are not safe to use internally.
Happy Night Tea (a.k.a Sunshine Tea)
We love this blend at our house for times of stress and exhaustion, it is especially helpful for kids to sip before bed. St. John's Wort seems to give an extra bit of protection from nightmares while greatly reducing stress. Chamomile is very gentle and relaxing for kids. While the lavender just gives the a little special soothing nervine boost.
- St. John's Wort
- Pinch of Lavender
Combine equal parts of chamomile and St. John's Wort with the lavender, about 1 tablespoon of each herb per cup of water. Cover with boiling water and a lid to keep in all the yummy therapeutic essential oils. Steep for 3 to 6 minutes, no longer. Strain and add honey to taste. My kids love it with Lemon Balm Honey!
Other Night Time Teas ~
There are so many wonderful choices when it comes to choosing bed time tea herbs for kids and these herbs/blends are a few of my family's favorites. All of them are great for relaxation and easing little bodies to sleep.
- Lemon Balm is particularly helpful for kids that are emotionally wound-up and over excited.
- Chamomile all by itself, is a great herb for kids especially for kids with emotional tummy upset.
- Rose is wonderful for soothing nervousness especially if there is a sense of grief involved.
- My kids also love Sleepy Time, Tension Tamer and Honey Vanilla Chamomile from Celestial Seasonings.
Need supplies for creating your own herbal crafts? The Bulk Herb Store and Star West Botanicals* both sell wonderful, high quality herbs, containers, and plenty of other supplies to help you!
Who doesn't like a good foot rub? A nice rub is especially relaxing before bed. You can further enhance the relaxing effect by rubbing essential oils or balms into the feet. Our bodies are able to absorb a phenomenal amount through the skin on the bottom of our feet. In fact an old remedy for coughs is to put rub the bottom of the feet with olive oil, put minced garlic on top of the oil and then put socks over the whole thing. Within a very short amount of time the person's breath will smell of garlic! The garlic then helps to fight infection from the inside of the lungs out as the person breathes.
So, putting something nice on the feet before bed gives the person a lovely dose of healing. I like to rub a couple drops of lavender essential on my kids feet if they need help sleeping. Always be sure to dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil like olive oil or coconut. Other essential oils can also be used. Check out the suggestions above in the section for making Monster Spray for more ideas!
You can also make a Sleepy Time Foot Balm with your kids for use before bed!
In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Kidneys are associated with the emotion of Fear and they govern the feet. A nice foot or back rub (right over the kidneys) is a great way to soothe fears and induce relaxation before bed.
Coffea Cruda is a homeopathic remedy which is good for insomnia with racing thoughts like the mind is going a mile a minute. Both of my kids and I have found relief from disturbing thoughts at bedtime and during the night by taking this remedy.
- Flower Power by Anne McIntyre
- The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils by Julia Lawless
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