Night Terrors-Who’s More Terrified?

22 Jan

As I sit watching the Biggest Loser, confidently (or at least trying to be confident) listening to my 20 month old scream his head off…I thought a post on night terrors (or sleep terrors) might be timely.

Night terrors usually occur between 4-12 years of age and occur during the first 3rd of sleep.  They are a non-REM sleep problem which makes them slightly different from nightmares that occur during REM (dream) sleep.

Quick Facts about Night Terrors:

  1. Children appear highly agitated
  2. They are not responsive to parent’s attempts at comforting (which is why I’m still watching Jillian scream at some poor lady who’s crying her eyes out)
  3. They generally DO NOT remember the episode
  4. Night terrors are very common: In one study of 2-6 year-olds, 40% had night terrors.

What are the Causes of Night Terrors?

  1. Genetics are involved in sleep terrors (ask your parents, you’re probably just “payin’ for your raisin'”).
  2. Lack of sleep (not napping)
  3. Increased nighttime awakenings (sleep apnea, reflux)

What Do You Do About Night Terrors?

  1. Infrequent night terrors (2-3 per month) should be ignored (still watching Jillian, but he’s been done screaming for 10 minutes)
  2. Gentle awakening-with frequent night terrors, studies have shown that gently awakening the child about 30 minutes prior to the time that the episode occurs might decrease the frequency of night terrors
  3. Medications-I will occasionally  recommend melatonin for children with various problems with sleep including night terrors but I would not recommend you doing this based on this article.  There have also been reports of melatonin causing night terrors (scientists can never get their story straight).  Talk to your doctor if you are interested in medical treatment for your child’s problems with sleep.

Take Home Points:

  1. Night terrors are common.
  2. Children don’t remember the episodes (so the answer to the question in the title is that you are more terrified).
  3. Most night terrors do not require treatment and should be ignored.

 

 

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