This topic is something to familiar for me. Its also a topic that is not talked much about. No parent wants their children to have bad dreams, waking up scared and only wanting you to comfort them and make all the scary dreams go away.
Nightmares are different from Night Terrors (sometimes called sleep terrors) though. While the two sound alike and are in someways similar, they happen during different sleep periods and cause two different outcomes.
What are Night Terrors?
Night Terrors are a really dramatic version of a nightmare. The child is inconsolable and doesn't even notice a parents presence. Unlike nightmares, which kids often remember, they won't have any memory of a night terror the next day because they were in deep sleep when it happened. Night Terrors are scarier for the parents because there is nothing that we can do to help them.
I remember sitting on the edge of my sons bed watching him scream and thrash as if he was fighting something. He kept calling for me and I would tell him I was right there but he had no idea. His eyes were closed and clueless to my presence. After about 30 minutes of this he slowly calmed down, laid down and went right back to sleep as if the past 30 minute scream fest never even happened. The next morning I did ask if he had any weird dreams (because quite frankly he woke up chipper as ever) and he simply said ''nope!'' and went about playing with his toys.
Causes of Night Terrors on Kids
Night Terrors are really not all that common. They typically happen between 4 and 12 years old but some children can be younger (my son was about 3 maybe 3 and a half). Some suggest that it is an inherited habit, meaning there is a family member who had these or sleepwalks (sleeping walking is a similar sleep disturbance). The most common cause of night terrors is simply being over tired. Following a bedtime routine and ensuring that they get to sleep at a good time is key to helping them get a good nights rest.
Tips to remember:
- follow a good bedtime routine
- never try to wake up you child if they are experiencing a night terror (they will likely be very confused and could alarm them even more)
- watch them until the episode is over to ensure they do not get hurt (rolling and hitting head on the bed rail or wall, trying to get up out of bed, etc)
- no late bedtimes
The family is everything, and as much as possible we all want the best for our kids. If the night terrors of your child are frequently occurring, it may be time to consult their pediatrician or even a sleep specialist.