Sleep disorders such as nightmares and night terrors are common among children. A number of circumstances or situations can cause such disorders. Stress, anxiety, fatigue, fever, medications are some of the causes for disturbed sleep and nightmares. Generally, these disorders can be prevented by setting up a regular bedtime and wake up time. Some relaxing activities such as reading a happy story or cuddling and drinking a warm glass of milk before going to bed can be helpful to induce a good night’s sleep. In spite of these precautions, if the nightmares or night terrors prevail, it is advisable to consult your pediatrician.
You may be wondering, what is the difference between nightmares and night terrors. Nightmares occur late at night or early morning during REM sleep. Generally, your child can remember a nightmare and he can be easily awakened during a nightmare.
However, if you hear frightening screams and see a glazed look in the eyes of your child, it could be a night terror. It is difficult to wake him up although he may look awake with the eyes open. It may take anything between 10 to 30 minutes before he is fully awake.
Generally, night terrors occur during REM sleep early at the night. Sometimes, they occur within two hours a child goes to sleep. A child does not remember night terrors in the morning. But it is frightening for parents to see their child terrorized and screaming with eyes wide open.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is to wake up your child as soon as he screams. Once he wakes up, console and comfort him and consult a good pediatrician.