I’m sure that if you’re a parent you have probably had to comfort your child after they’ve had a nightmare or a bad dream. Generally, once you have talked to them and reassured them, they go back to sleep. However, a night terror can be very different for you as well as for your child. So, why is a night terror worse?
A nightmare generally happens later on in the nights sleep or in the early hours of the morning. Also, even though your child wakes up scared and upset, it is reasonable easy to comfort them and encourage them to go back to sleep. As well, with a nightmare, your child can normally remember all of it or at least part of it the following day.
With a night terror, it generally occurs within the first four hours of your child going to sleep. It is awful, as you can rarely comfort them or even wake them. My son would often sit bolt upright all of a sudden and scream, but even though his eyes were open, he wasn’t awake and nothing you said or did would get through to him – it’s scary to watch, you feel so helpless. Then a few minutes pass and quiet, he would have gone back to sleep. What causes them? My daughter has never had them, well not yet anyway.
Only 4% of children ever suffer from night terrors and generally it its in those children who are aged between four and twelve. Scientists believe that night terrors are caused by the over-arousal of the Central Nervous System. but there are some common factors which are linked to this over-arousal. If your child is very over tired and fatigued, ill, stressed, or taking new medication, these can all be factors that affect night terrors.
Can I prevent them from happening then?
Basically, no, but there are a few ways that will help you and your child deal with them. The best way, I find, of reducing their occurrence, is to have some music playing in my sons room all night, quietly in the background. Gentle, soft nursery rhymes, or soothing sounds are great for this. Also, try and reduce your child’s stress, particularly before bedtime – stick to the same routine each night and ensure that they get plenty of sleep.
At the end of the day, it has been proven that there is no lasting harm to night terrors and that there is no medical reasons for their accrual. Also, the likelihood is that your child will grow out of them as they get older and their Central Nervous System matures. Unfortunately, it is just something that you and your child might have to go through.