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Frequent Bad Dreams Rare Among Preschoolers

Those that are more prone to nightmares can be identified as young as 5 months old

TUESDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Bad dreams among preschoolers are less prevalent than was previously thought, but those who have them are likely to continue to be afflicted over a number of years, according to a study published in the January edition of Sleep.

Valerie Simard, of the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada, and colleagues conducted a study of 987 children and based their findings on assessments conducted by parents at 29 months, 41 months, 50 months, and at 5 and 6 years old.

Only 1.3 percent to 3.9 percent of children were reported by their mothers as having bad dreams, with high family income, no siblings by the age of 29 months and a non-immigrant mother all correlating to increased risk of childhood nightmares. Those that had bad dreams in the previous year were most likely to have them at 41 and 50 months. Having a difficult temperament at 5 months of age was one of the risk factors for subsequent bad dreams, as were anxiousness at 17 months and emotional nurturance at the onset of sleep at 29 months.

"Carefully targeted treatments of early anxiety symptoms (at 5 to 17 months), as well as promotion of early, protective parental practices (at 29 to 41 months) may thus help prevent a cascade of changes leading, over the years, to bad dreams, nightmares and associated psychopathologies," the authors write.

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