Parenting: Toddlers and night terrors

November 29, 2010

Night terrors shouldn't be confused with nightmares, which are vivid dreams a child or adult remember.

Toddlers and young children between the ages of 2 and 12 are most likely to experience night terrors and have no recollection of them the next morning because they are actually asleep during the episode, even though they appear to be awake.

Pediatric Neurologist Divya Khurana says behavior during a night terror can vary. Some kids just seem agitated and mumble a bit, while others scream as if they're terrified and often don't recognize parents when they come into the room to comfort them.

"It's usually more scary for the parent then for the child," said Khurana.

The topic of night terrors sparked a lot of discussion on my Facebook page.

Mischele wrote "My daughter had them from the age of 2 to about 4 or 5 years old. It was horrific! She'd scream and scream for sometime onward of an hour. Sometimes her eyes would be open and she'd be looking right through us, almost haunted like."

Brett wrote : "Our 3 year old daughter has night terrors. It seems to always happen around the same time at night. She will scream like she is being attacked."

So what causes night terrors? Experts aren't exactly sure but suggest they may be linked to being overtired, or a disrupted sleep schedule.

To help prevent them, avoid giving your child caffeinated drinks before bedtime and try to make sure they get at least 8 or 9 hours of sleep a night.

If your child experiences night terrors, Khurana says do not attempt to wake your child up during an episode--instead make sure they are safe and let it run it's course.

Most kids will grow out of them but if you find your child is having night terrors multiple times a week, you may want to check with your doctor to make sure there isn't an underlying medical issue like sleep apnea, causing the night terrors.

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