Night Terrors in Toddlers

Night terrors in children happen when your child is asleep. Terrifying screams coming from the room of your toddler. It may seem that your child is awake, but unresponsive to your attempts to comfort him. Should you keep trying to wake him up? Even if you try, he will probably stare into the distance as if you are not there, or be upset.

Moreover, in such a situation it is neither necessary nor wise to wake him up. It is much more likely bad dreams will be turned away if you do not wake up your child. After the screams quiet, your toddler will become calm and will not remember the frightening event. Will not suffer from the residual fear, unless his parent’s fears cause to invent some.

Night terrors do not usually lead to other problems during sleep – such as walking in sleep (somnambulism), talking, or nightmares. Walking and talking in sleep and night terrors are similar because they also appear at the end stages of deep sleep before the toddler is fully awakened and entered the next phase of sleep. However, they are not caused by night terrors. Lifting too much dust around the night terror, at any age, can confuse and upset the child.

Because night terrors in toddlers are so disturbing for parents, we will answer some frequently asked questions.

What Causes Night Terrors in Toddlers?

Night terrors in children are not bad dreams. Dreaming occurs only during light sleep, known as REM sleep. Night terrors however, occur approximately two hours after the child falls asleep, when the first cycle of deep sleep suddenly come to an end and there has not been a slow awakening. At such moments there are no dreams and the brain cannot form memories. During a night terror the child’s heart beats at full speed, and his breathing becomes rapid. Your toddler may be wet from sweating, but will not remember the dream which he would tell you about, or remember his night terror.

Night terrors are not epileptic seizures, although many parents worry that they could be. Seizures that occur during sleep are more likely to emerge in the morning. Toddlers will sometime wake up and feel the attack coming, or will remember the moments before it began. When the attack ends, the child will probably wake up and parental comforting can be very helpful. Any attack would probably be very similar to others; a behavior that goes with the night terror can be variable: screaming, crying, babbling, and scratching on the bed. However, do not hesitate to consult your doctor to help you discern what to do with your toddler night terrors.

Night terrors in children are not really scary, though regularly intimidate parents. Every parent will want to comfort the child who yells and be afraid if cannot receive any child’s reaction. If you hear it scream or move, but if your toddler appears neither fully awake nor fully asleep, move away. It is far more likely that your child will fall asleep again if you do not talk, or you do not touch him. Your attempts to reassure wake your toddler from night terror, can only leave him in that strange part of the sleep out of his deep sleep, not completely awake, yet still unable to go into a new phase of deep sleep. Let him go back to sleep without waking up, and will sleep better. The best protection against the night terrors can actually be a good night sleep during short rest day and night.

Are Night Terrors Dangerous For Your Child?

Night terrors are common in children younger than six years. Because their deep sleep is often a deeper sleep, than older children and adults, they are more likely to come into this strange state of incomplete awakening when a circle of deep sleep ends. Night terrors are normal in this age group and are not dangerous if the child does not move so violently, that he can hurt himself.

It is rare in children younger than 6 years and likely will happen when they get older, especially during adolescence. You might have to carefully control your child, although he may be even more upset. It is best to simply remove any objects that could injure and obstruct his way if he starts walking to the window or door. Of course your presence is essential, because some serious injuries may happen if you are not there to control the environment and help your toddler.

Nightmares should not be confused with night terrors, because they occur during light dream (REM dream).

Night Terrors in Toddlers Treatment

It seems that night terrors are the most frequent in children aged between 18 months and 6 years. However, between 6 and 18 months, some babies can go from deep sleep into a state of partial wakefulness, and cry. This is called baby night terrors. It is not the same as when the infant of this age wakes up and cry for feeding, diapering or comforting.

When the baby wakes up with specific needs, it usually responds to parental efforts. But in a mixed sleep – wakefulness during which may appear night terrors, the infant is indifferent towards parent’s efforts. If not disturbed, will eventually sink into a light sleep.

Will a toddler who moves from deep sleep into a state of partial wakefulness finish rolling around on the bed, screaming, talking or walking, partly depends on his age. Kids will be more likely to roll in bed or patter, until they are old enough to speak. From the second year screaming and crying are more likely, even a child can sometimes sleepwalk.

After sixth year night terrors are less common because most children no longer sleep so deeply. After sixth year it is likely to be a mixed state of deep sleep and waking which leads to somnambulism (sleepwalking). Also then emotional factors already begun to play a role in your child life.