Nightmare: Why They Occur and What You Can Do About It

What is a night terror?

A night terror is a disturbance of sleep where your child suddenly sits upright in bed, crying, screaming, moaning or muttering, eyes wide open but not really awake. Because your child is stuck in a kind of gray area between sleep and wakefulness, it does not perceive your presence and will not respond to what you do or say.

A night terrors last from two minutes to 40 minutes and when it's over, your child falls back to sleep without remembering later on.

What sets the nightmare apart from a nightmare?

Unlike a night terror, a nightmare will actually leave your child awake - it can remember his nightmare, talk about it, and be comforted by your presence. Scientifically, nightmares usually occur during the REM phase (rapid eye movement) of sleep, often between 2 and 6 o'clock in the morning. The night terrors, on the other hand, often happen during the first few hours of the night when you are not dreaming (non-REM phase).

The simplest way to tell the difference between night terrors and nightmares is to wonder who is more disturbed the next morning. If your child is upset, it has had a nightmare. If it is you who are left distraught by the events of the previous night, your child probably had a night terror. To your reassurance: The ""terror"" of a night terrors affects in the parents who have to watch him, much longer than in the child who experiences the night terrors.

What can I do if my child experiences a night terrors?

Do not try to wake your child. Expect that your attempts to soothe the child will be rejected - a child suffering a night terrors can not be reassured, and trying to capture it will only make it wilder.

As long as the child is not in danger of hurting himself, do not try to soothe him physically. Just talk to the child in a calm voice and stand between the child and anything that can be dangerous to him - for example, the headboard of his bed. When it's over, make the same arrangements as for a nightwalker: remove objects and toys from the ground, secure the stairs, close windows and exterior doors. Children who suffer a night terrors often stumble involuntarily out of bed.

What causes the night terrors and can you prevent them?

There are no 100 percent measures against the night terrors, because you do not even know exactly what causes him. Night terrors can come from irregular sleep routine or lack of sleep, they can have their cause in stress during the day or over-fatigue. There is even evidence that pygmy animals are hereditary.

However, what is certain is that by themselves, nightmare does not mean that your child has a psychological problem or is even depressed.

If you solve all the other child's sleep problems, such as getting up in the middle of the night and making sure that your child has regular bedtime with a soothing night routine, this may help ward off the night terrors. In some cases, the nightmare may be caused by a sleep apnea syndrome, a serious but treatable dysfunction in which enlarged tonsils or throat polyps block the respiratory tract, making it difficult for the child to breathe and partially wake it up.

BabyCenter reader Sonja has an interesting recommendation against the night terrors. Her daughter suffered a lot from nighttime terror. Sonja came up with the idea that it might be related to the large amount of fennel tea her daughter consumed daily. She let the tea go - and within days the night terrors disappeared. ""To test whether it was really due to the tea I cooked fennel tea for her three weeks later and gave her some days, and what can I say: the whole night terrors -Spuk started all over again and since then we have stopped the tea completely and our child has been sleeping awhile since many weeks "", writes Sonja. This experience has not been scientifically proven, but it shows that you may want to check your child's nutritional plan - it does not necessarily have to be fennel, but herbs and essential oils can have a powerful effect on children.

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