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Night Terrors

Everyone has nightmares. Nightmares are a natural and actually healthy part of life. While they are unpleasant to experience, they tend to lose their power as the time goes on. What are not so common in people are night terrors.

Night terrors are disruptions in the sleep process. They are very rare occurrences and the ones who are usually affected by it are between the ages of 4 and 12.While they are similar to a nightmare, night terrors have a far more dramatic occurrence. Parents are usually alarmed when a night terror happens. But they are usually not symptoms of medical problems.

Sleep usually happens in five stages.

Stage 1 is a light sleep which usually lasts five to ten minutes. In this stage the brain produces theta waves which are slow brain waves. Dreams occur during the REM stage (rapid eye movement), REM is the last stage of sleep.

Stage 2 is where the brain produces rapid brain wave activity known as sleep spindles. Body temperature and heart rate decrease. This stage lasts 20 minutes.

Stage 3 is a transitional period from light sleep to deep sleep where delta waves emerge.

Stage 4 is where the person is in deep sleep. This stage lasts for 30 minutes average. This is where night terrors tend to occur.

Stage 5 is REM sleep where dreams occur.

The transition from deep sleep to REM sleep is usually a smooth one, but in rare cases, a child becomes frightened. This reaction is what is known as a night terror. A child that is suffering from a night terror might sit up in bed all of a sudden and scream and shout. The child might breath rapidly, his heart might beat faster. He or she may break out in a sweat, act upset or scared, or lash out. Usually after a few minutes, a child calms down and goes back to sleep.

Night terrors also differ from nightmares in that children who have them do not remember them due to being in a deep sleep.

Night terrors happen when the central nervous system is over-aroused. They are often noted in kids that are stressed or fatigued, taking a new form of medicine, sleeping away from their familiar environment. Only up to 6% of children are affected by night terrors. They are more common among boys.

A child may have one or several night terrors before they stop. They usually disappear as the central nervous system mature.

If you have a child that is suffering from night terrors, as upsetting as they are, you are better off not trying to wake them up because the attempts are mostly useless. If they do wake from it, they are usually disoriented and confused.

You can’t treat night terrors but if you want to help prevent them, you can do so by;

Reducing your child’s stress

Make a simple bedtime routine and stick to it.

Make sure your child is well rested

Don’t let your child stay up too late.

While night terrors are a rare occurrence, they are not life threatening, and it is not necessary or possible to treat night terrors with medication. The best you can do is to supervise your child while he or she is having this disturbance.