As a child, most of us would have gone through the common phase of recurring nightmares. And on more than one of these occasions, we would have woken up with a start; sweating profusely and breathing heavily.
However, on some really rare occasions, we would have literally jumped out of bed, screaming our lungs out at something invisible, not comprehending anything or anyone around us; and would have been literally inconsolable for a good couple of minutes.
If you see the same happening to your child now, there’s absolutely no need to worry about it. For these so called nightmare sessions are pretty common in kids. However, there is one thing you need to know. While nightmares are pretty common and don’t affect children much, these kinds of sessions wherein your kid wakes up screaming and inconsolable have a different name associated with them. They are called ‘Night Terrors’.
Commonly occurring in small children between the ages of 2 and 6 years, night terrors are common issues in childhood. However, they are not restricted to a particular age group and can affect adults as well. And while there is nothing to worry about them, the symptoms associated with the same are pretty scary and distressing to deal with, especially for parents.
Common Facts about Night Terrors
Night terrors fall into the category of parasomniac disorders, and are also called pavor nocturnus. Almost 15% of children get affected by these sessions which normally last for a couple of weeks and then just disappear altogether with minimal or no recurrences during their later years. Unlike nightmares, kids who are affected by night terrors don’t have any recollection of what happen to them during the same.
A night terror will usually last from anywhere between 5 minutes to a full half hour. And most of the time, it is handling the child afterwards that becomes an issue for most parents.
Some of the common symptoms associated with night terrors include your child bolting upright from bed, screaming his/her lungs out, his/her eyes being wide open with fear, his/her not being able to recognize the surroundings (and you as well), and his/her being confused and inconsolable.
You would also be able to notice that when your kid wakes up after a night terror, his/her heart rate would soar dramatically, and he/she would tend to sweat profusely, breathe rapidly, and hallucinate even after waking up.
Facts to be wary of
Although night terrors are not a major cause for concern in children, there are some facts that you need to be wary of in order to deal with the issue in a better way.
Accordingly, night terrors can be passed to your child genetically from another member in the household who suffered from the same problem as a child. It also needs to be noted that the issue is more common in boys and can also be caused by a multitude of other reasons, including emotional stress, something disturbing that happened the previous day, high fever, fatigue, a new environment or surroundings, new medications, or narcolepsy (very rare).
Dealing with night terrors
As mentioned before, night terrors tend to recur a few times before disappearing altogether. And this normally happens when the child’s nervous system starts maturing. And while there are no permanent side effects to these issues, in some really rare cases, they have been known to cause seizures in children.
Parents generally find it very difficult to handle their kids during night terrors. Waking up a child mid way would only make him/her more confused and scared. Kids who get night terrors usually go back to sleep after a few minutes. So, it would be better if you don’t wake him/her up when you see him/her trashing around in bed. Alternatively, you can just sit down beside your kid and make sure that he/she doesn’t hurt himself/herself while moving around in his/her sleep.
If your kid wakes up after a night terror, don’t make him/her more agitated by showcasing your own emotions. As scared and confused you may be by his/her actions, make sure that you remain calm and soothe and comfort him/her so that he/she is able to go back to sleep quickly. Shaking him/her or yelling at him/her to focus would only scare him/her more.
It has been found out that children who are usually overtired or have irregular bedtime routines suffer from frequent night terrors. In these cases, you can help your child get rid of the problem by setting up a bed time routine and sticking firmly to it.
Don’t let your child stay up too late in the night. And make sure he/she gets appropriate rest during the day to feel relaxed and stress free. Keep regular tabs of your child’s behavior in order to notice signs of emtional disturbance if any. This in turn would enable you to sort out a possible problem that might disturb your child’s sleep in the night.
If your child suffers from frequent night terrors, you can help him/her out by waking him/her just a few minutes before the time he/she usually gets disturbed by one. FYI: Night Terrors usually occur early in the night within 4 hours of going to sleep. And so, if your child is getting disturbed by night terrors at a particular time in the night, you can possibly arouse him/her right before that moment and help him/her go off to sleep a few minutes later.
If the problem seems to persist as your child grows up, you can have a chat with a professional, possibly a sleep specialist who may start your child on sleep medication for a few days until he/she outgrows the problem.
Night Terrors in Adults
While almost 98% of kids outgrow night terrors in their later years, some still face the problem as they grow older. And although the symptoms in both cases are the same, the reasons for prolonged night terrors in adults vary significantly.
Some of the more common reasons for night terrors in adults include improper diet, inadequate sleep, physical and mental stress, mental illness, and hypoglycemia. Many individuals who suffer from night terrors exhibit similar symptoms, including anger, aggression, passivity, and ignorance of body pain etc. And although there are no specific treatments for night terrors when it comes to adults, research has shown that a proper diet and sleep pattern would enable an individual to get relief from the issue.
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