Though toddler night terrors do not have any harmful effect on the child’s health, it is quite disturbing for parents to observe their child in a panicky state every night. Hence, it is important for parents to know about the causes as well as the symptoms of this problem so that they are able to handle the situation when it occurs.
Night terrors is a sleep disorder that is most commonly seen in toddlers around the age of two. A child is said to have this when she wakes up from her sleep and starts yelling, crying, and sometimes even swinging her hands violently. Though most parents think that these terrors are caused due to some kind of nightmare, this is actually not so.
In fact, there is a huge difference between the two. When a child wakes up and cries after seeing a nightmare, the parents are usually able to comfort her and put her back to sleep. However, in case of night terrors, the toddler is not awake, rather she is in a sleeping state and does not recognize her parents’ presence, and hence, it becomes difficult for the parents to calm the child while she is having such an attack.
Another important point of differentiation is that the child usually remembers that she had a bad dream at night, however with night terror, she actually does not remember anything about the attack that she had the night before. As it is really scary for the parents to observe their child suffering from frequent attacks like this without being able to do anything to stop it, it is important for them to learn to deal with these attacks. However, before we go into the details about what one can do at such times, we must know more about the causes and signs of toddler night terrors.
Such attacks usually occur in the first few hours after the child goes to sleep. Stages of sleep can be categorized into two sections, which are rapid eye movement (REM) and non rapid eye movement (non-REM). REM is the stage when dreams occur and on the other hand, we enjoy deep sleep during the non-REM stage. Moreover, it is during the non-REM stage that the child experiences these attacks.
The most common cause of this problem is sleep deprivation, i.e., this is one of the sleep disorders in kids, which is commonly seen when he/she has not received sufficient sleep during the last few days due to change in sleep routine. They can also be experienced when the child is suffering from high fever. Apart from this, intake of certain medications that have certain effect on the central nervous system of the child can also be a cause.
The first sign of night terrors is screaming and yelling. Though the child’s eyes may be wide open, he may not be able to see her parents in front of her. Sometimes, in the state of restlessness and panic, the child may try to hit and harm herself. Apart from shouting and making noise, parents may also observe excessive sweating, rapid heart rate, and increased breathing rate.
However, these attacks usually do not last more than a few minutes, in some rare cases, it can last for an hour too. Usually, the kid calms down and returns back to a peaceful sleep on her own. Moreover, in most cases, she does not remember about the episode after waking up the next morning.
Though it is difficult to calm or control your little one when she experiences such an episode, there are certain things that you can do to treat as well as prevent such attacks from recurring. When you wake up at night and recognize that your kid is having this attack, the best thing you can do is to wait for the episode to end. As your child will not respond to your call and will not calm down if you try to soothe her, just stand at her side to ensure that she does not do anything to hurt herself. If you try to calm her down or shake her to wake her up, there are chances that the situation becomes worse.
Since this problem occurs due to sleep deprivation, see to it that your child gets enough sleep everyday. Extend her bed timings a little longer and make sure that she goes to bed and wakes up at the same time daily. Planning certain calming activities, like reading a book, singing a song, cuddling, etc., can also aid in preventing this problem.
Another thing that you can do to avoid this occurrence is to wake your kid gently, fifteen minutes before the night terrors begin. Usually, it begins within 90 minutes after the child goes to sleep and so just a few minutes prior to it, wake her up gently and though she may be in the sleeping mode, taking her out of the room or taking her to the washroom may help in curbing the problem.
I hope your doubts have now been cleared with this article. By following these steps, you will be able to prevent your kid from having these attacks. Apart from this, parents must understand that children do not recall these instances, and hence, talking about it to them will not do any good to them, instead they may develop a fear of going to sleep. Though there is nothing to worry about this problem, if you still have certain questions about it, consulting a pediatrician will aid in relieving your tension.
Disclaimer: This AptParenting article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.