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Nightmares common in children could become problem

For many children, nightmares are as common as believing there could be a monster under the bed. But when do they indicate a real problem?
Here's ABC News' Senior Medical Contributor, Dr. Timothy Johnson.

Nightmares nearly three in four kids experience them. For most kids, these scary middle-of-the-night episodes eventually pass.

But sometimes the bad dreams don't go away. And there may be devastating consequences when they don't.

A new study today in the journal sleep suggests that children who suffer from frequent nightmares or bouts of night terrors may be at an increased risk of mental health problems as an adult.

Researchers in the UK surveyed the mothers of nearly seven thousand children between the ages of 2 and 9 asking them at various points in time whether their children experienced nighttime disturbances.

Children who had nightmares on a regular basis were three and a half times more likely to suffer from psychosis in early adolescence. Experiencing Persistent night terrors just about doubled the risk of similar problems.

It's enough to keep a parent up at night. But there is good news here too. Parents who notice severe nightmares in their child can seek help early and deal with any major problems before they start.