How to Stop Night Terrors

If your child can't sleep through the night, it's important to learn how to stop night terrors.

Night Terror
It is the middle of the night, a scream sounds. You are immediately wide-awake; the scream is coming from your child's bedroom. You rush into his room to find him sitting bolt upright in bed, eyes wide open and screaming. Your child is experiencing a night terror. As a concerned parent, you want to seek out treatments for night terrors.

Not a Nightmare
Night terrors are classified as a sleep disorder. They are common among children, mostly those between ages two to six years old. They can occur at almost any age.

Night terrors are considered normal for children of that age; they are scary and very distressing but benign. Night terrors are similar to sleepwalker and sleep talking. They are considered a disorder of arousal and partial arousal from non-REM sleep.

What makes a night terror different from a nightmare is that during a nightmare the child is easily woken up and comforted, a child suffering from night terrors is hard to wake up and will become more agitated if woken. Also, children who have night terrors do not remember anything about them.

Children do eventually grow out of night terrors.

What is a Night Terror Like?
Your child is sitting up in bed; eyes wide open with a look of panic on his faces. He is screaming and sweating. His is also breathing fast and has a very rapid heartbeat. He may look awake, but he really is not. If you wake him up, he will not recognize you and may even become inconsolable.

A night terror can last anywhere from five to thirty minutes. After the episode, the child returns to a regular sleep.

Coping with Night Terrors
When your child suffers and episode of night terrors, resist the urge to wake him  up. Instead, make sure that he is safe and comfortable and be available to help soothe him back to sleep once the episode is over.

Night terrors usually occur in the early part of the night one to four hours after going to sleep. You can try awaking your child a little before the night terrors usually occur; this breaks the sleep cycle and may prevent your child from having the terrors.

It is believed that night terrors are often triggered by being overly tired. Make sure that your child has a regular bedtime and gets plenty of rest.

Professional Help
It is often not necessary to visit the doctor for night terrors, unless they begin to increase in frequency. If your child is younger than three years old and experiencing more than one night terror a week, or if your child is older than three and experiencing more than two episodes a week, consider a trip to the pediatrician. The doctor will do a full evaluation to make sure there is no other underlying cause for the night terrors.

The doctor may prescribe a sleep medication at this point, to help your child sleep through the night. Remember that  your child is perfectly fine; you are there to make sure he remains safe in bed. Once the episode is over, he will return to sleep.

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