There’s nothing more heart-breaking and terrifying than waking up to your child screaming, kicking, and calling out in despair because of a terrible dream at three in the morning, especially if this is a routine. If you’re looking for an answer or a way out, you’ve come to the right place. Night terrors are a common occurrence among young children – one that leaves many parents worried and often, catching up on their sleep at work. Thankfully, a few easy steps can largely help subdue and control the situation. But before, we get into details, let’s understand what it is we’re dealing with.
Night Terrors Vs Nightmares
Night terrors are disturbances that children, usually between 2 to 6 years of age experience. It occurs during Non-REM sleep (Non-rapid eye movement sleep) i.e. during the first few hours after falling asleep. Night terrors are just like nightmares, but with one exception – your child won’t remember any of it once they’re awake. Children often remember their nightmares and if it’s a recurring one, it’s usually associated with a personal issue that parents may need to probe deeper about. A child’s night terrors, on the contrary, is not a medical condition and shouldn’t be a matter of worry (except if it’s drastically affecting your sleep.)
How To Deal With Night Terrors
1. Don’t wake your child:
Unlike a nightmare, night terrors are more explicit and on certain occasions, it may seem like your child is awake, but they’re not! In fact, don’t even try to wake them. One, it’s hard to wake them up from a night terror and two, waking them up will just make them feel more agitated and confused. It’s better to wait it out. Children usually slip back into sleep after having a night terror. In case they don’t, console them and keep them awake for a while longer so that they don’t have another episode right again.
2. Practice a bedtime routine:
Having an everyday routine is an effective method of getting children to fall asleep. Make sure that you eliminate possible distractions or physically exhaustive activities at least two hours before bedtime. These include watching the telly, listening to loud music or playing among others. What you can do is give your child a warm shower and offer warm milk and cookies before bed. These are healthy carbs and will help induce sleep.
3. Clear the way:
Some children tend to sleepwalk when they experience night terrors. Make sure to remove sharp objects or anything dangerous that they might unknowingly catch hold of or throw. Keep their environment safe and comfortable. Also, make sure that it’s not too warm in the room.
4. Practice scheduled waking:
Some children experience night terrors at around the same time, every day. In such cases, you can wake your child about 20-30 minutes prior the time he/she is expected to have a night terror. Encourage them to have a sip of water and visit the bathroom before returning. This interrupts the sleep pattern and is found to be effective. However, this may not be practical on an everyday basis.
Night terrors or nightmares are usually not a matter of health concern. However, if you find that the situation continues to heighten despite best efforts, it’s advisable to consult a doctor.