terrors happen during this stage of sleep whereas nightmares
occur usually during the second half of the night when
the child enters REM sleep. Often the night terror will
be worse if the child has been in non-REM sleep for
a while. Usually during a night terror a child thrash
or scream in her sleep, sometimes she might moan, talk
or break out in a sweat. A night terror can last any
where from five to forty minutes. Unlike a nightmare,
a child will fall right back asleep after the night
terror and have no memory of what happened. Night terrors
can occur in children as young as six months but normally
happen in children age three to five.
causes night terrors?
There is no explanation for night terrors. It is a
very mysterious disorder that occurs in a small percentage
of the population. Many times it is dismissed as just
having nightmares. Sometimes in older children and
adults it is misdiagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder. Stress can contribute to night terrors but
they are not caused by stress.
to do if your child is having night terrors
child is having a night terror don't try to intervene.
Let the night terror run its course. You can hold
your child and comfort her but don't try to restrain
her or yell at her to wake up. Of course, if she is
in danger you should keep her from harming herself.
This is not the same thing as a nightmare where she
will wake up and you can talk to her and try to reassure
her. Often times she might open her eyes and maybe
talk to you but she is still not fully awake and is
probably not aware of your presence. After the night
terror is over she will probably go right back to
sleep and may not remember what has happened. Don't
try to keep her awake to explain what has happened.
Let her go back to sleep as she probably isn't aware
of what has happened and talking about it will not
prevent it or make it better.
you can do to help prevent night terrors are keeping
your child on a regular sleeping schedule. Try to
avoid letting your child get over-tired. Put your
child to bed at the same time, in the same place.
Establish a bedtime and napping routine. Most children
outgrow night terrors. There are some sleep medications
that they can prescribe to help your child sleep better
if she is having severe problems. If your child is
having recurrent or worrisome night terrors contact