Night terrors are mysterious and unexplained disorders that take place when your child is in a deep sleep but without dreams. You will know that you are experiencing them if you suddenly start to moan, cry, shake or run out of bed. There is a possibility that your eyes are open and you are awake, but during this state, he is actually still unconscious and ignores what is happening around him.
These nocturnal terrors in children are not very common and only occur in about 3-6% of all children. Although some may also have them as early as 8 months after birth, most of them begin to experience these disorders around 4 or 5 years of age.
Are they night terrors or nightmares?
Although it may seem that “night terrors” is just another term for nightmares, the two are actually two different things. Nightmares occur during rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, which is also when dreams take place. If your child has a nightmare, chances are he will remember exactly what it was about and why he was afraid. Of course, that until he learns to speak, he will not be able to communicate what exactly he is afraid of.
Night terrors, on the other hand, occur outside the MOR sleep. Your child may experience these during transitions through the sleep phases and can last up to several minutes. Because sleep that is not MOR is the deep stage of sleep, your child will not be aware of what is going on and will not remember any of the images or sensations the next morning.
What are the causes and symptoms of night terrors in young children?
Your child’s night terrors can be caused by a number and combination of different factors, including:
“Anesthesia is given for recent surgery
“Stressful everyday events
“Adequate lack sleep
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“Any medication that may have an effect on the brain and central nervous system
Night terrors are more common in preschool children. You will notice that they usually occur during the deepest part of your child’s sleep, usually at some point near the beginning and early at night. You will be able to identify that your child is going through an episode if you have one or any combination of the following symptoms:
“A Porro, cries the tantrum
“Struggle and refuse to remain held
“Inability to recognize you or any familiar face
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“Tremors, sweating and rapid breathing
“A stunned or glassy-eyed expression
Prolonged episodes of night terror can persist for as long as 45 minutes, although most of them are not that long. It is also likely that your child will fall back into a peaceful sleep and remember nothing the next morning.
How to deal with night terrors in young children
Unfortunately, there is no proven method at this time to minimize or get rid of night terrors. Because your child will not be aware of your presence and may have a tendency to wallow around, any effort to comfort your child may go unnoticed. The best thing you can do every time you experience night terrors is to make sure you are safe and not exposed to any harm. It is also advisable to inform your family or anyone else who might be caring for your child that these episodes are normal and are not a cause for alarm.
In addition, the following precautions can also help ensure your child remains unharmed during their episodes:
“Remove any objects or sounds that may disturb your sleep.
“Lower the lights in your room and speak in soft, soothing tones.
“Set your sleep cycle so that you sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Whatever you do, do not try to shake it to wake or hold it, as this will only complicate things and make you behave more wildly. If you notice that even your daily activities are being affected by your night problems, you can try to give tricyclic antidepressants as a temporary medication with the approval of your doctor.
Preventing night terrors in young children
Establish an atmosphere of calm
Experiencing a lot of stressful or stimulating things before bedtime can cause a restless sleep. Give your child some time to perform soothing rituals, which can include things like a bath, a story, a song, and hugs.
Make sure your child gets enough sleep
Adequate rest is important for any growing child since going to bed too tired can lead to an uneasy and uneven sleep. I tried to give him more time to sleep, anticipating his bedtime, or waking him up a little later in the morning.
Wake up your baby gently
You may want to try and gently wake up your child after an hour or two of sleep. Here is usually when a night terror episode begins, so waking it up before it can take place can work to alter its cycle enough to prevent further episodes from occurring.
Be sure to return to routine for waking your child for several minutes
Make note of the time when your child usually experiences his episodes of night terror every night. Wake it up about 15 minutes before that time and hold it up for 5 minutes. This would be a good time to let him go to the bathroom and urinate. Continue to do this for about a week to see if they improve your sleep habits.
When to seek medical help
Most children stop experiencing night terrors on their own. However, if you notice that your child suffers from episodes every night, or even several times in a single night, it is advisable to talk to your doctor immediately. He will be able to check if something else happens, such as large tonsils that can cause breathing problems and could trigger night terrors. You can also refer it to a specialist if your child’s disorder is serious.