We have already talked in previous posts about children's parasomins more frequent as sleepwalking and nightmares in children.
Today we are going to focus on night terrors, which although often confused with nightmares, have significant differences.
Unlike nightmares, night terrors do not cause the child to wake up. Although he seems awake and has his eyes open, he is actually asleep while they occur.
Night terrors usually occur in children from three years and tend to disappear into adolescence. They are relatively rare, affecting about five percent of children, while virtually all children have a nightmare from time to time.
What are night terrors and their causes
The night terrors they are not caused by dreams that produce fear. To understand them better it is important to know when they occur.
Occur during deep sleep, two to three hours since the child falls asleep, in the non-REM sleep stage, while nightmares occur during the REM sleep stage Rapid Eye Movement o Fast eye movement).
Let's say it is a partial awakening during a stage of deep sleep. That's why they stay awake but are really asleep.
The night terrors they are sudden reactions of fear that take place precisely in the transition from the deepest sleep phase to the most superficial sleep, from the deepest non-REM sleep phase to the most superficial REM sleep phase, the stage in which dreams occur.
Generally, this transition usually occurs smoothly, but it is believed that due to hyperactivation of the central nervous system still immature, which regulates brain activity during sleep and wakefulness, it sometimes occurs turbulently.
The child gets scared, is disturbed, is agitated, his heart rate accelerates, he starts to sweat, sob or scream in anguished manner. There are children who sit on the bed and even get up and run in terror throughout the house. Trying to reassure him does not react.
After a few minutes he calms down and continues to sleep peacefully without waking up completely. Upon waking up, the boy don't remember what happened at all.
Night terrors are more frequent in tired, stressed, sick children, those who sleep in a new environment or away from home and those who take a new medicine.
It is also believed that there may be a genetic component, since in 80 percent of cases, parents of children with night terrors have also experienced them in their childhood. Although they are disturbing episodes, they have no traumatic or lasting effects on the child.
What to do if the child has night terrors
It is a very distressing situation for parents, and also of helplessness, seeing that their children feel fear and can do nothing to comfort them.
The child should not be woken up during the night terror or try to immobilize him. It will only get you confused, you will feel disoriented and it will cost you to fall back to sleep.
Instead, you have to keep an eye on him, make sure that no damage is done and wait a few minutes for the episode to pass. You probably won't notice the presence of the father or mother, and you can even try to push him away.
What can be done, as far as possible, to try to prevent them is basically the same as we have said in the case of sleepwalking or nightmares.
Try to make the environment before going to sleep as relaxed as possible, avoid too much excitement or violent stimuli, reduce the stress that the child may be subjected to, establish a routine at bedtime and get enough sleep.
In childhood you can experience a single isolated episode of night terror or several, but usually disappear as the child grows and the nervous system is maturing.
If the child had night terrors frequently it is recommended to consult with a sleep specialist.
We hope this series about infantile parasomnias in which we have dealt with sleepwalking, nightmares and night terrors find it useful to help your children in case of suffering them.
Just remind you that the dream in childhood is a complex process and that our children need all our patience and understanding to be as pleasant as possible.
Photos | slightly everything and Pink Sherbet Photography on Flickr More information | Sleep Institute In Babies and more | Night terrors and nightmares of children. How to distinguish, Nightmares and night fears