What are night terrors?

[cs_content][cs_section parallax="false" style="margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;"][cs_row inner_container="true" marginless_columns="false" style="margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;"][cs_column fade="false" fade_animation="in" fade_animation_offset="45px" fade_duration="750" type="1/1" style="padding: 0px;"][cs_text]If you read any parent internet forum or message board, you'll probably hear the term "night terrors" bandied about. Sounds scary, right? Many people assume that night terrors are like nightmares---only much worse. Turns out, they're a completely different phenomenon (and should be dealt with very differently).[/cs_text][x_custom_headline level="h2" looks_like="h4" accent="true"]What are night terrors? [/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Technically speaking, night terrors are a type of parasonmia, a disruptive sleep disorder. They typically occur in children aged 3-8 years old, though some younger toddlers also experience them. They're more common in boys and are hereditary--so if a parent has experienced them, then the child is more likely to.One of the big indicators of night terrors is that they occur during non-REM sleep, which happens in the first few hours after falling asleep. (Nightmares, on the other hand, occur during REM sleep, which takes place later in the night). Because the child is in a very deep sleep, they don't awake fully and, often, won't appear to recognize anyone or anything in the room. Almost always, they will have no recollection of the occurrence the next day.Not sure if your child is experiencing night terrors or a nightmare? Watch this video of a toddler going through terrors---notice now he stares blankly at his parent, as if he's not really awake.[/cs_text][x_custom_headline level="h2" looks_like="h4" accent="true"]How to respond to night terrors? [/x_custom_headline][cs_text]If your child is experiencing night terrors you should not attempt to wake him. Doing so may make it worse and, more likely, the terrors will begin again once he's back asleep. It's best to allow the cycle to complete itself. (Nightmares, on the other hand, will wake the child up and you should comfort him until they can fall back asleep).Instead, stay quietly in the room with the light off to ensure your child's safety. Often the terrors stop as quickly as they started and the child will fall back into a deep sleep. As hard as it is, try not to engage him.Remember, your child won't have a memory of what happened so it's best not to mention it the next day.[/cs_text][x_custom_headline level="h2" looks_like="h4" accent="false"]How to prevent night terrors? [/x_custom_headline][cs_text]Night terrors almost always have a common trigger, which may take some sleuthing on your part to discover.- Begin by logging when the terrors occur (both in terms of what time of night and which days of the week). Is there anything that happens the days they typically occur? (e.g., days when a nap was skipped, when bedtime was much later than usual, when there was a particularly exciting or upsetting event during the day).- Try an earlier bedtime. A common trigger for night terrors is sleep debt. If you suspect this could be the case, bump up bedtime by 15 minutes to see if that helps.- If the terrors tend to happen around the same time every night, then you can try to partially awaken your child before the terrors start. Often this resets the body enough so that the child moves to REM sleep without the terrors occurring. (There's a new product designed to help with the partial arousals; I haven't tested it myself but have heard good things).- If you try the above suggestions but the terrors continue, it may be time to consult a professional. [/cs_text][x_share title="Share this Post" share_title="" facebook="true" twitter="true" google_plus="false" linkedin="false" pinterest="true" reddit="false" email="true" email_subject="Hey, thought you might enjoy this! Check it out when you have a chance:"][/cs_column][/cs_row][/cs_section][/cs_content]

ToddlerHadley Seward