Does your child often sit up straight in the middle of the night screaming, sweating and throwing herself here and there along with a rapid heartbeat? If so then it’s quite possible she is suffering from night terrors…
Little Annie would get up each night and cry uncontrollably for 2-3 hours. As the night would set in everyone would dread it, as they did not know how to pacify her. It was really painful to see her cry and scream for hours together. She was past the colic pain stage. Her parents decided to seek medical advice and it was then that they heard the term night terrors. They were familiar with the word “nightmares” but were not aware of the term “night terrors”.
Night terrors or sleep terrors are very similar to nightmares but with a somewhat more pronounced presentation. The child screams and shouts. These usually last for just 5-20 minutes but the child lands up sweating, with fear and racing heartbeats.
Night terror usually affects children between 3-8 years of age. Sometimes younger and older children might also get affected. This is a type of a sleep disturbance and occurs in the first 2-3 hours of sleep. Since these have no dreams children often don’t remember why they were upset or cried at night. Many parents mistake night terrors to be an indication of an underlying mental or medical condition. There is no disease or condition associated with night terrors but is mostly due to fatigue, stress, medication and in some case even teething. Sleep experts define night terrors as reactions to fear which occurs when a child moves from one phase of sleep to the other.
Witnessing a night terror can be quite frightening and upsetting especially for the parents. They feel helpless and are unable to soothe their precious child, in agony. The best way, though not too practical, is to wait and watch until the episode passes. Only care to be taken is that the child should not get hurt by thrashing here and there. Such children usually calm down very soon and return back to their sleep. When your child is experiencing a night terror … don’t wake them up and even if they do get up, they are going to be confused and disoriented which might result in taking a long time to calm down.
Night terrors have no treatment but here is how you can help your child:
- Softly talk/ read to your child
- Reduce their stress
- Stick to a sleeping schedule
- Make night time more relaxing
- Make sure your child does not overtire him/herself and gets enough rest
- Whisper good things to your child, after about one hour of their sleep
- Use aroma therapy and homeopathy
- Seek medical advice if night terrors occur repeatedly
The only way to help your child is to have a better understanding of night terrors. This will help both you and your child to get a good night’s sleep.
Find out the difference between nightmares and night terrors, through this video: