Night terrors, which are also referred to as sleep terrors, are essentially repeated episodes of extreme crying, thrashing, screaming or fear while sleeping; not a nightmare. The eyes of children experiencing night terrors are usually opened but they are not completely awake. These episodes typically occur in children between the ages of 3 and 12.
Additionally, night terrors happen during non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep, typically an hour and 30 minutes after a child starts sleeping. Approximately between 1 and 6 in 100 children experience night terrors. They are experienced by girls and boys of every race and typically run in families.
Coping With Night Terrors in Toddlers
The wisest thing to do when your child is having an incident of night terrors is to remain calm and simply wait until he or she calms down. Do not interact with them or intervene in any way, unless he or she is not safe. Sleep terrors can be terrifying to witness; however, there is no need for panic as they will not harm the health of your child.
When to Consult With a Doctor
Night terrors are not viewed as being dangerous; however, they can be disruptive to the sleep of your child. Approximately 50 percent of children have sleep-related problems that are sufficiently serious enough to require medical assistance.
The majority of children ultimately grow out of night terrors. However, you should talk to your doctor if the episodes are taking place most nights or several times in the same night. The doctor will have the capacity to check whether the episodes are being caused by something that can be easily treated.
For instance, enlarged tonsils could be contributing to breathing issues during the night and causing your child to wake up. Referral to a specialist service could be required in a small percentage of children.