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Night Terrors: Not To Be Confused With Nightmares, Can Scare Parents

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Let’s start this off by saying I didn’t really get much sleep last night because of something that happens once in a while in our house.  In the past 6 months a pretty scary thing for a parent has been occurring with our 4 year old.  They’re called Night Terrors and only happen to 1%-6% of people. It is somewhat more common in the ages of 3-4.

So What is a night terror?  It’s not a nightmare or like one at all.  Usually when a kid has a nightmare, they wake up scared, maybe start to cry, or run into your room.  Night terrors are when your child bolts upright in bed and screams bloody murder. I mean screams and cries like you’ve never seen before.  You try to console them and nothing helps.  At least the first time it happens.  You can hug them, hold them, tell them it will be ok and they will just keep screaming.  The first time it happens to you as a parent,  you are trying to figure out what in the hell is going on.  It’s not a slow cry that begins and escalates, it’s a full on scream fest from the start.  The reason you can’t really console them is because even though they are screaming, they are technically still asleep.  It takes a lot for them to snap out of it.

Night terrors begin during REM (rapid eye movement state of sleep) usually between 1-2 hours after falling asleep.  And guess what, after they fall back asleep, sometimes it will happen again the same amount of time later.

So what do you if your child has a night terror?

Experts say:

It’s best not to try to wake kids during a night terror. Attempts usually don’t work, and kids who do wake are likely to be disoriented and confused, and may take longer to settle down and go back to sleep.

There’s no treatment for night terrors, but you can help prevent them. Try to:

  • reduce your child’s stress
  • establish and stick to a bedtime routine that’s simple and relaxing
  • make sure your child gets enough rest
  • prevent your child from becoming overtired by staying up too late

What works for us.

Last night after 15 minutes of his screaming and me trying to console him, I finally tried to wake him up.  I know the experts say not to because they’ll have a hard time falling back to sleep.  Whatever, I get up at 4:30 in the morning, and I need my sleep too.

I turned on the light in his room, I grabbed one of his favorite books and sat in bed with him.  Then I clapped my hands and said very loudly “Zach, stop crying, wake up, you’re ok”  His eye’s opened up and he was very confused as to what was going on.  I told him we were gonna read this book and go back to sleep.  We read a few pages, he told me he wanted to go back to sleep and he did.  That’s what works for me.

I hope you never have to experience night terrors as a parent, but if you do, don’t worry.  The child is ok and they rarely remember the incident.  Only you and anyone else that’s woken up in the middle of the night will.

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