The first time we went through a night terror with our daughter, we were really scared. We didn't know what was happening, why she didn't allow us to touch her and why she was screaming like crazy. Then I started to research and I realised that she had a night terror and that this can be normal an associated to over-tiredness. At that moment we were transitioning from 1 to 0 naps.
Night terrors, also known as sleep terrors, are episodes of intense fear, screaming, and distress that can occur during sleep. They are most commonly observed in toddlers and young children, typically between the ages of 2 and 6 years old. Night terrors are different from nightmares, which are bad dreams that occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and are usually remembered upon waking. In contrast, children experiencing night terrors are often unable to recall the events upon waking.
Night terrors typically occur during the first half of the night, usually within a few hours of falling asleep. During an episode, a child may suddenly sit up in bed, cry out, and appear extremely frightened. They may exhibit physical signs of distress, such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and dilated pupils. Children may also exhibit unusual behaviors during night terrors, such as thrashing, kicking, or attempting to flee from the bed. It is important to note that during a night terror, a child is not fully awake and may not respond to attempts to comfort or console them.
The exact cause of night terrors is not fully understood, but they are believed to be related to the immaturity of the nervous system in young children. Other potential factors that may trigger night terrors include sleep deprivation, irregular sleep schedules, fever, stress, and certain medications. Night terrors are generally considered to be a benign condition and most children outgrow them as they get older.
If your child is experiencing night terrors, here are some tips that may help:
Create a calm bedtime routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine that includes relaxing activities such as reading, singing, or gentle cuddling can help your child transition to sleep more smoothly and reduce the likelihood of night terrors.
Ensure adequate sleep: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep for their age. An overtired child is more prone to night terrors, so ensure that your child is well-rested and follows a regular sleep schedule.
Create a safe sleeping environment: Ensure that your child's sleep environment is safe and free of any potential hazards, such as sharp objects or hard surfaces. You can also consider using a night light to provide a comforting environment.
Avoid triggers: Identify and avoid any potential triggers that may contribute to night terrors, such as stress, anxiety, or fever. If your child is sick, try to manage the underlying illness to reduce the occurrence of night terrors.
Stay calm during an episode: If your child experiences a night terror, it's important to remain calm and avoid trying to wake them up forcefully. Instead, you can gently soothe and reassure them, and ensure that they are safe during the episode.
Consult with a healthcare professional: If your child's night terrors persist or significantly disrupt their sleep or daily functioning, it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.
Remember that night terrors are usually a temporary phase that many children outgrow on their own. With supportive measures and time, most toddlers eventually outgrow night terrors and develop healthy sleep patterns. However, if you have concerns about your child's sleep or overall health, it's always best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and management.