What is a night terror?
Night terrors usually appear when the child is between 18 months and 4 years old. They are however rarer after the age of 5 years.
During a night terror, the toddler is not aware of the presence of his parents, because he is actually not really awake. Night terrors typically last from 1 to 5 minutes, but may be longer in some children.
They occur during deep slow sleep, usually 1 to 2 hours after falling asleep. Nocturnal terrors occur more often at the beginning of the night, because it is at this time that the periods of deep slow sleep are the longest . However, night terrors may also occur later in the night, as deep slow sleep returns in midnight sleep cycles.
Night terror is the superlative of a nightmare, but it is much less common. Night terror often causes intense fear or panic in the dreamer causing him or her to scream or scream, sleepwalking or panic moving in bed. Sometimes it is caused by a post-traumatic stress disorder and it generally occurs during non-REM sleep. In contrast to a nightmare, a person stays asleep during a night terror, even though it seems that he or she is awake.
It’s hard to wake someone up during a night terror, so don’t try; just wait until it’s over. Night terror can look scary, but it doesn’t hurt the dreamer and he or she probably doesn’t know what happened the next morning. Night terror is most common in children aged four to eight years, but it can continue into adolescence or even adulthood. The good news is that night terror usually passes on its own. But if you lack a lot of sleep because you often have night terror or if you are very anxious during the day, go to the doctor.
If you wake up screaming in the night and you do not know where you are or what happened, you have the chance that you suffer from pavor noturnus (sleep terror). These are a kind of nocturnal panic attack, in which there are few or no images, let alone a storyline, but rather only a deep sense of fear and threat. After waking up, it sometimes takes a few minutes for the person to know where he or she is (and this time is often spent screaming or moving). Often the person cannot remember anything. These attacks occur during sleep stages 3 and 4. This disorder is difficult to remedy and has a neurological (physical) basis.
Once the episode is over, all these signs disappear and the toddler reclines quickly, without difficulty and without realizing the presence of his parents. If he wakes up completely, he is often lost and worried, especially if his parents seem disturbed by what has just happened. The next morning, most children have no memory of their night terror.
Syptoms of Night Terror
How to recognize a night terror?
During a night terror, the child can:
- have your eyes wide open, but your eyes are empty;
- to have a speech that makes no sense;
- be agitated, disoriented and sweaty;
- not to be touched or held.
The causes of night terror
Night terrors are hereditary. It is for this reason that they are more common in families where one of the parents – or grandparents – also had night terrors when he was young. In addition, nocturnal terrors can occur when the child:
- goes to bed later than usual or is very tired because he recovers from his lack of sleep by a change in the duration or intensity of the phase of deep sleep, during which night terrors manifest themselves;
- lives changes in his daily life that make him anxious (separation, moving, changing daycare, etc.), because stress is a trigger of episodes in children predisposed to night terrors;
- stop napping or when sleep patterns change;
- is sick or feverish , if he is predisposed to nocturnal terrors.
Sleep disorders related to night terrors
Children who have had nocturnal terrors in early childhood are more likely to develop sleepwalking (walking while sleeping) after 5 years. They are also more likely to talk while they sleep. Usually, sleepwalking gradually disappears as a teenager and sometimes returns to adulthood. It is also possible that children having night terrors will pee in bed (nocturnal enuresis). This disorder usually disappears around 10 years old.
Night terror in babies
What to do if your child has night terrors?
During the night terror
- Do not try to wake your child, even if he looks deeply upset.
- Avoid talking to him and touching him: even if he seems awake, he does not notice you. In fact, your intervention may even prolong the episode. It is best that you stay just next to him to make sure he does not fall out of bed or get hurt.
- Wait until he goes back to bed alone.
- If your child wakes up completely, do not look disturbed, as your attitude may be worrying. Even if he is not aware of having made a night terror, he may wonder what happened for you to be with him in the middle of the night. To reassure him, you can rub his back, humming softly or lie down beside him for a few moments.
- If he is used to it, you can also let him fall asleep alone. Staying with him could make him believe that something serious or important has happened.
The day after the night terror
The next day, do not tell him that he has made a night terror, unless he addresses the subject himself, which is unlikely. If you talk to him, you may scare him and he may want to avoid going to bed at night. Give her more time to check if something is bothering her.
How to Stop night terrors?
- If your child has stopped napping, start bedtime again in the afternoon and gradually reduce the duration of the naps. Indeed, night terrors are more likely to occur when a toddler is very tired. If your child does not want to fall asleep at nap time, you can give him a book and ask him to stay calm without forcing him to sleep.
- Make sure the bedtime routine soothes it. Avoid watching scary TV shows and playing computer or video games. Also set aside terrifying stories (even the wicked wolf can be scary).
- Avoid intense sports, heavy meals, and activities that are too imaginative too close to bedtime.
- Promote an atmosphere of calm before bedtime by bathing your child, telling a story, lighting a night light, singing a song or telling him about the pleasant events of the day.
- Promote better relaxation with simple breathing exercises , for example.
- Avoid, as much as possible, stressful situations, because stress is a trigger of episodes in children predisposed to night terrors.
For nocturnal terrors that occur night after night …
In the event that terrors occur very often or when there is a danger of injury, and in these cases only, sleep specialists advise parents to wake up their child 30 minutes before the time when night-time terror usually begins, to prevent it from happening. You can take your child to the bathroom or give him a drink, before letting him go back to sleep by himself. We can do this every night for a few weeks and then see if the demonstrations stop. If the situation does not improve, consult a doctor.
Night terrors are a normal sleep disorder that usually appears when the child is between 18 months and 4 years old.It is best not to wake a child who has a night terror. However, you must stay by his side to make sure he does not hurt himself.As the child is not aware of night terror and keeps no memory of it, it is best not to talk to him the next morning.Heredity, lack of sleep, stressful situations and fever can cause episodes of night terrors.
The dreamer often wakes up abruptly in the midst of this lively, terrifying dream and can often describe the nightmare in detail. Nightmares occur during REM sleep, which usually lasts longer in the early morning hours. About one in four children between the ages of five and twelve regularly have nightmares, but this is usually not something to worry about, although they are more common when someone feels stressed or anxious.
When a child has a nightmare, he or she usually wants to tell his or her parents and hear that it wasn’t real, but just a dream. Because the child will be scared or upset by the nightmare, he or she probably has trouble falling asleep again. As a parent you can probably imagine something, since adults can also have nightmares.
About five percent of the total population report current, another six percent of past nightmares. In childhood, they are more common: it is estimated that about a quarter of all children could be affected. Frequency and course are very individual. Sometimes they report several nightmares per week or even per night, sometimes they rarely occur. In children, the disorder usually loses again. With persistence or if the nightmares occur only in adulthood, the disorder can persist for decades.
Nightmares start in more than half of the cases before the tenth or two-thirds before the age of 20 years. An accumulation around the age of 5 was found. Then the nightmares take off.
In childhood, nightmares occur equally frequently in boys and girls. In adults, they are more common in women
In childhood nightmares, children should be calmed, especially during the night. The next day did not dramatize the event. After some time, a calm, factual debate with the attempt to learn possible backgrounds: interpersonal or educational burdens, traumatic experiences, excessive demands, but also avoidable triggers, eg. B. monster movies or the like.
If necessary, autogenic training for children can be learned by learning self-instruction (“that’s just a dream”) or Jacobson progressive muscle relaxation.
In adulthood, causes and treatment options are similar, although pharmacokogenen triggers have to be asked. In severe cases, a neuropathic or psychotherapeutic treatment is recommended.
Nightmares can always wake you up, but those affected are always completely oriented and alert and remember in detail the extended and highly frightening dream images. This distinguishes them from Pavor nocturnus .Nightmares are common in childhood and generally no cause for concern. In adulthood, they can lead to more serious psychosocial effects and then require appropriate treatment (mostly psychotherapeutically oriented). A short-term improvement can be achieved by drugs that suppress REM sleep