Night Terrors Are a Normal Part of the Preschool Years

Night terrors are a common sleep problem in young children age three to five, especially boys. In rare cases, girls and adults can even experience night terrors, but the people usually affected have a strong biological predisposition for night terrors or other sleep disorders.


Knowing the causes and signs will arm parents with the knowledge they need in order to help their children have a restful night's sleep. Talking to the family physician or pediatrician will also shed some light on the problem and also offer some practical solutions.

The BBC reports that three percent of children experience night terrors. Studies confirm that night terrors tend to run in families, as do other sleep disorders. Children who are afflicted with night terrors oftentimes act like they are awake, but are still sleeping. If your child has been exhibiting strange behavior and extreme fear upon awakening (they only appear awake), they are probably having a night terror. Experts advise parents to calm the child, tucking them back into bed. We should never try to wake the child. Anything sudden -- a sound or a shake -- can cause even more confusion, which could just make things worse.

What is a night terror?

In some cases, it is a distraught child who acts strangely. Often these children are terrified at some unseen stimuli. Sometimes these kids have a look of sheer terror upon their faces. Other times they just act "weird" or are unresponsive and "out of it." A child may wander out of bed in the middle of night and be sitting on the floor in tears or possibly they are preoccupied with a toy, acting as if there is something scary about it. Any strange behavior on waking (or appeared wakening, since kids are asleep during a night terror) can be a night terror. If this is a regular occurrence or has happened a few times, parents should talk to their child's physician for clarification.

What causes night terrors?

An interruption in the normal sleep cycle causes night terrors. Since it is during stage-three and stage-four sleep that children experience these bouts of terror much differently than they do in a nightmare. Nightmares occur during earlier sleep stages, especially REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and children do not appear awake. There is a link between night terrors and stressful situations or lack of sleep. Problems at home or school can also be to blame.

In most cases, night terrors happen after a stressful event or a lack of sleep. In rare cases, some of these afflicted people experience years of disturbed sleep. While rare, some adults plagued by night terrors and a hereditary link can even experience night terrors throughout their lives. In extreme cases of night terrors that occur regularly and for a prolonged time or in adults, there could be psychological problems and/or the presence of extreme stress.

Know the symptoms

Is there any treatment available?

In most cases, the only thing that helps is comforting the child, reassuring them that there is nothing to fear. Although therapy or psychological counseling may be an option in some extreme cases, this is rare. Benzodiazepine is a medication that has shown success in reducing night terrors in some of these severe cases. Medication is not necessary for the vast majority of children with night terrors. Some doctors report that the recommended dosage of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) given an hour or so before bedtime can reduce the occurrence of a night terror.

Most children will outgrow night terrors, so a little comfort goes a long way. Gentle touches from a reassuring parent are all that most children need to get through this frightening experience. If the night terrors are severe, cause injuries or are a constant problem, your doctor may suggest an alternate treatment like therapy or administering a drug.

How can I prevent night terrors?
The best prevention seems to be a strict bedtime ritual. Here is an example of a good nightly routine for a young child:

By keeping stress to a minimum and getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis, the severity and incidence of night terrors should be significantly reduced. Address all problems at school or at home, helping to relieve your child's stress. For added prevention, try instilling a regular routine for your child. Have the same bedtime every night. Try to limit snacks within the last hour before bed. Don't read the child any story that could scare them or allow them to watch a violent or scary movie just before bedtime. A nice warm bath just before turning in at night may be just what the doctor ordered. The warm water has a calming effect and will lull your child into a sound sleep, hopefully for the entire night. Sweet dreams!

Related Articles

Comments

Post new comment

Similar

Exercise Tips Whatever Need to Know for Beginners

Exercise Tips Whatever Need to Know for Beginners Exercising helps people reduce their weight, maintain weight loss, and fight obesity. Research has shown that women who regularly exercise but do not change their diet can lose significantly more

Aerobic or Endurance , an Exercise Method

Aerobic or Endurance , an Exercise Method The sweat experts divide exercise into three general categories: Aerobic (also called endurance). Strength (also called resistance). Flexibility(Also called stretching A balanced program should

Strength or Resistance, a Method of Exercise

Strength or Resistance, a Method of Exercise The sweat experts divide exercise into three general categories: Aerobic (also called endurance). Strength (also called resistance). Flexibility(Also called stretching A balanced program should

Flexibility or Stretching ,a Method of Exercise

Flexibility or Stretching ,a Method of Exercise The sweat experts divide exercise into three general categories: Aerobic (also called endurance). Strength (also called resistance). Flexibility(Also called stretching) A balanced program

Vegan Diet Secrets: Becoming a Vegetarian

Vegan Diet Secrets: Becoming a Vegetarian A lot of vegans do not even know why they wanted to become vegans in the first place. Why are you a vegan? If you cannot answer this question in depth, then there's really no reason to follow a vegan

Importance of Mealtime for your Children

Importance of Mealtime for your Children Eating healthfully is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby. Smart choices can help you promote proper growth and development. Good nutrition and a balanced diet will help

Halloween Awareness for Kids

Halloween Awareness for Kids Halloween is a tradition celebrated on the night of October 31, most notably by children dressing in costumes and going door-to-door collecting sweets, fruit, and other treats. It is celebrated in