09.10.2015
Nightmares and night terrors are two different things, though both can be distressing for little ones and their parents alike. Night terrors are a fairly common childhood sleep disorder that is characterized by extreme terror while sleeping and the inability to fully wake up. In this type of sleep disorder the sleep state is a non-dreaming state and usually there is no scary dream situation or object that has caused this terror, as is the case with nightmares.
During a consultation, your general health practitioner or your child’s pediatrician will ask for a brief description of the symptoms, the frequency of the night terrors and how they are affecting your child.
Night terrors are most common in children between the age of 2 to 6 (although they can occur at any age) and they affect approximately 15% of all children.
A night terror can be described as an overwhelming feeling of fear, danger or panic during a state of deep sleep.
There are a number of treatment tips that you can implement at home to help prevent night terrors and to calm your child during Night Terrors.
Medical treatment is seldom needed unless night terrors are caused by another medical condition.
First make sure that your child is getting a sufficient amount of sleep as sleep deprivation is a major cause of night terrors in children.


Night terrors often occur at a certain time in the sleep cycle (between the first and second hour of sleep). During a night terror, be gentle and comforting without forcefully waking your child or causing further fright with loud voices or sudden movements. If the night terror leads to sleep walking, gently guide your child back to bed without waking him or her. Check that your child does not have a fever or illness that may be causing the night terrors.
If you suspect that the night terrors are related to an emotional issue or excessive stress or anxiety, set up an appointment with a child psychologist or licensed counselor. Putting a good bedtime routine into practice will not only help ensure that your child is getting sufficient sleep each night, but it will promote a sense of safety and security. While your child may be screaming, crying and desperately trying to escape something, with eyes wide open, he or she is in fact still in a state of sleep. Night terrors in children are a fairly mysterious disturbance that occurs during deep sleep where your child will experience terror and fear without apparent cause. For a start, nightmares occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, also known as dream sleep, whereas night terrors occur during slow wave sleep or deep sleep.


Because night terrors in children usually disappear with age, radical treatment is usually not necessary.
Essentially, treatment is aimed towards preventing further episodes by removing stressful triggers, preventing any harm coming to your child during episodes and soothing your distressed child back to sleep after a night terror. While Benzodiazepine medications (such as diazepam) will often reduce night terrors they have serious side effects and are not recommended for children. Less stimulating activities such as story time and quiet conversation are a good way to ease your child into relaxed state ready for sleep.
Children waking from a nightmare may be able to tell you details of what scared them and may even be too scared to go back to sleep or go to bed the following night. A child having a night terror is aware of the panic and feelings of fear, but aware of little else.



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