Night Terrors vs Nightmares

A few weeks ago, James was waking up from his nap, after only 30-45 minutes, screaming crying. It would only last a few minutes and he would eventually get back to sleep but it was really scary and sad. I immediately ran to my friend Emily Freilino who is a sleep consultant to see what was up! She has written several posts here like her Sleep Q+A and creating a good sleep routine. Emily is super helpful and if you have any questions on your children’s sleep contact her via email at emily@sleepwiseconsulting.com.

Thankfully, Emily said, he wasn’t suffering from night terrors nor nightmares BUT he might be getting too much sleep! Who knew that was a thing? That post will come soon!

NIGHT TERRORS

what to look for

  • Typically occurs during non-REM sleep within 2-3 hours of going to sleep (first half of night)
  • Crying and/ or screaming lasts for about 5-20 minutes
  • Nothing calms child down
  • Child can be sweaty, have increased heart and/ or breathing rate
  • Child appears awake but is confused; unaware of parent in room
  • Usually won’t remember episodes
  • Night terrors are much more common in boys and happen in 5% of all children

why it happens

  • Stressful life events
  • Fever
  • Medications
  • Sleep Deprivation
  • Child is working on a developmental milestone 
  • Mom or dad had them as a kid – night terrors are hereditary!
  • Disruption in child’s typical sleep pattern

how to help

  • Keep your child’s bedroom safe
  • Monitor your child but avoid interfering as that can worsen the episode 
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule for your child 
  • Don’t talk about the event the next morning with the child 
  • If your child has them at a consistent time, wake your child 15 minutes before he/she typically has the episode and do this every night for 7-10 nights and the episodes will likely start to diminish
  • Consult your pediatrician if concerned

NIGHTMARESw

what to look for

  • Child can recall the nightmare
  • Usually occur during REM sleep (second half of the night)
  • Very common for children ages 2-4 
  • Child will seek comfort from you after the nightmare and can take a while to fall back to sleep

why it happens

  • Imagination is very active
  • Stressful events that day
  • Major changes such as moving
  • Scary Movies
  • Sick

how to help

  • Comfort – offer a blanket or stuffed animal, hugs or back rubs, be patient and willing to talk as much or as little as the child wants
  • Bedtime routine
  • Nightlights

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