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Night Terrors in Children: My Son’s Sleep Disorder, My Nightmare


It’s happening again, it’s been a few months since he has had an “episode.”  But like clockwork, about an hour after I tuck my little boy all cozy in bed, I am jolted by the sound of him screaming, crying and pacing the halls.  His body is tense, he is talking “nonsense” and he definitely seems like he is in distress.  His night terrors are striking again.
What are Night Terrors?

Night Terrors is a sleep disorder (closely related to sleep walking) that occurs in 6% of children usually around the ages 2-12 years of age.  For some unexplained reason, the majority of night terrors occur in boys.  While many parents often mistake a “night terror” for a regular old nightmare, it is easy to distinguish from the two.  First of all, a nightmare occurs during the dream sleep stage or during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.  The child wakes up during the nightmare, remembers the nightmare and is usually afraid to fall back asleep because of the nightmare.  On contrast, a night terror occurs in the non-REM sleep (usually about 1 hour after the child falls asleep), they are not scary dreams but rather a sudden fear reaction and the child has no recollection of having a night terror.
Symptoms of Night Terrors
Like I said earlier, night terrors usually occur 60-90 minutes after the child falls asleep and the child will have no recollection of the night terror the next day.  Other symptoms of night terrors include:
-rapid heartbeat
-dilated pupils
-screaming and/or crying
-child having a “possessed” look


How do I prevent night terrors?
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for night terrors.  Some experts say night terrors occur when a child is under stressful situations or from being overly tired.  Therefore, it is best to make sure your child suffering from night terrors gets plenty of sleep and have a calming bedtime ritual.  Children tend to outgrow night terrors but until then the best advice is to keep your children safe during an episode.  Do NOT try to wake your child when he/she is having a night terror.  Simply walk/carry your child back to his bed and try to “sooth” him/her until the terror has passed.


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Wednesday 26th of February 2014

I'm not sure if they are considered night "terrors" but my partner has often had similar night/sleep episodes. The signs/symptoms are far too broad to be worth mentioning, but I know when she is having an episode because I know her personality well enough to notice even the subtlest of changes (though the differences can be quite stark). It can be really difficult to "snap" her out of the episodes into her normal conscious state too. Often it requires a startling jolt, but I tend to avoid doing that as it doesn't always work it can be difficult to do without hurting her. Instead, it is usually better to play along with her mental state to ease her back into a normal sleep state so she can "re-awaken" into her normal conscious state.

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