New study targets children’s nightmares

A new study at Flinders University will test the efficacy of a novel device, the Dream Changer, in reducing nightmare frequency in children and improving sleep through a free online study. Families with a child aged three to 10 who is struggling with nightmares are invited to participate.

Occasional bad dreams are common in childhood, but approximately 4% of children have recurring nightmares and night-time can be considerably distressing for them. Recurrent nightmares are often accompanied with night-time fears, bedtime resistance, reliance on parents to fall asleep and insufficient sleep.

Professor Michael Gradisar, a clinical psychologist and paediatric sleep researcher from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work, is leading the investigation into the small machine that resembles a Wii handset.

The Dream Changer device

“Children use the Dream Changer as they would use a TV remote. If they don’t like what they see they can ‘change the channel’ on their dream,” Professor Gradisar explains.

The device was invented by a mother in the United States whose child suffered from nightmares for years. She found her child’s struggles with bad dreams came to an end when the simple device was used in this way.

Flinders Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic postdoctoral fellow Dr Michal Kahn, who is part of the research team, has tried it on her own children. She says: “With the Dream Changer, parents don’t only provide their child with a tangible ‘tool’ to use ‘against’ nightmares, we also provide them with a new way of thinking about their nightmares.”

The trial is conducted entirely online, and families across Australia are invited to participate and receive the Dream Changer, free of charge.

For more information contact the Flinders Child and Adolescent Sleep Clinic: casc.enquiries@flinders.edu.au.

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