It is often seen that young children are terrified at some unseen stimuli. Sometimes, they even exhibit a look of sheer terror. At times, they can even act ‘weird’ or unresponsive. You might find a child wandering out of bed in the middle of night and sitting on the floor in tears. Any kind of such strange behavior on waking or appeared wakening can be termed as a night terror which is also called sleep terrors or pavor nocturnus. Though night terrors are common in young children, especially boys between ages 3 - 5, if it becomes a regular feature or has happened a few times, parents should consult a child physician.
Moreover, children after the age of seven years are seen overgrowing out of this kind of a problem. Night terror is basically caused by an interruption in the normal sleep cycle. It is not a nightmare rather stage - 3 and stage - 4 sleep in which children experience these bouts of terror. Night terrors are usually linked with stressful situations and lack of sleep. Problems at home or school can also be blamed for the same. Moreover, knowing the signs and symptoms of the same will help you in tackling the problem in a better way.
Signs & Symptoms
- Sudden bouts of apparent awakening, which means that the child appears awake but is in deep sleep.
- Overwhelming fear, terror, or strange behavior occurring at night
- Fast heartbeat is another symptom of night terror. It usually accompanies a heavy session of sweats and fast breathing.
- Screaming or crying is another sign and it can sometimes be described as the ‘blood curdling scream’.
- Child may seem confused after you try to console him/her as he/she is still in deep slumber and would not be able to recognize you.
- On a typical case, a night terror can last up to five to thirty minutes and in the morning; your kid will not have any memory about the incident.
- Inability to wake up fully can also happen and he/she may get irritated and scared if you try to wake up your kid.
How To Stop Night Terrors
- As opposed to nightmare, a child doesn’t usually have a recollection of a night terror. If your baby is small and under the care of a babysitter, make sure to let the caregiver know about this problem.
- After a night terror instead of trying to wake up the kid, it is always better to soothe him/her to sleep.
- Sometimes night terror could be triggered by chaotic home environment, some kind of grief, loneliness etc. try to keep the home calm and give love and support to your kid.
- There is no fixed treatment necessary for routine night terrors as it goes with time. However, if the child shows frequent night terrors, you can take him/her to a pediatrician to know the reasons behind it.
- Night terrors usually happen when the child is too tired, so to reduce the night terror you can make sure that your child gets enough rest and stick to a sleeping routine. Even if the night terror continues, you could check with a sleep therapist also.
- Also if you child has a set time for night terror, waking them before the time of night terror is usually helpful. it actually interrupts the sleep cycle and prevents the night terror from happening.
- In some cases taking sleeping medication also may work. However you need to ask your pediatrician before putting your kid onto any kind of medication.