Children's Nightmares Less Common
Nightmares Among Preschoolers Linked to Their Personality
Jan. 3, 2008 -- Nightmares among young children may be less common than
thought. A new study suggests most children's nightmares may be linked to the
child's personality traits.
Researchers found most parents of preschoolers reported that their children
had nightmares "never" or "sometimes," with less than 4% having
nightmares "often" or "always."
The survey also showed that children with frequent nightmares were more
likely to be considered anxious by their parents or to have a difficult
Researchers say the results show that young children with frequent
nightmares are a lot like adults with frequent nightmares, who generally suffer
from distress and other emotional problems.
Nightmares Tied to Personality Traits
In the study, published in the journal Sleep, researchers surveyed
parents of 987 children in the Canadian Province of Quebec at ages 29 months,
41 months, 50 months, 5 years, and 6 years. Parents were asked about the
frequency of their child's nightmares without having to assess whether the
nightmares caused them to wake up during the night.
The results showed that less than 4% had nightmares often or always.
Researchers found children with risk factors for nightmares shared common
traits that emerged as early as 5 months of age. For example, children with
risk factors for nightmares:
- Were more likely to have a difficult temperament as rated by their mother
at 5 and 17 months old
- Were more likely to be restless during the day at 5 and 17 months old
- Were more likely to be anxious and difficult to calm at 17 months old
Protective factors included parents who provided emotional nurturing after
children awoke from nightmares.
Researcher Valerie Simard, MSc,of the University of Montreal says the
results suggest that carefully targeting early anxiety symptoms in young
children may help prevent nightmares and other emotional issues.