Nightmares and especially night terrors are scary for not only the child but sometimes equally for the parents. There are a few important differences between nightmares and night terrors that parents should be aware of, including appropriate treatment.
A nightmare occurs in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and is when the child wakes up after having a scary dream. Comfort and reassurance will usually be enough to get them back to sleep again. You can also have a conversation about their dream during daytime the next day to help them overcome the fearful dream. Avoid scary movies or television shows; instead read or discuss happy/fun stories before bed.
A night terror on the other hand occurs in deep, non-REM sleep where the child is partially awake. The symptoms of a night terror can include screaming, sleep walking or panic where the child will have no memory of the experience the next day. This can be quite frightening for the parent; however, do not try to wake your child up. Instead, give them comfort if they’ll accept it and make sure their environment is safe so they do not hurt themselves. Night terrors are more common in children who have a family member with a history of having them but only occur in 3-6% of the population, usually between ages of 4-12 years old. They are more likely to occur if your child is overtired so ensure a regular bedtime.
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