A Beginner's Guide Night Terrors: Causes And Possible Treatments

While every parent has consoled a child waking from a nightmare, consoling a child who's going through a night terror is quite a different experience. If your child suffers from night terrors, you may wish to further understand their cause and treatment options. Below is a beginner's guide to night terrors, including the difference between nightmares and night terrors, causes including stress, and possible treatments.

Distinguishing Between Nightmares and Night Terrors

The first step in determining whether your child suffers from night terrors is to better understand how they present and how they differ from nightmares.

The largest difference between nightmares and night terrors – though, one that can't be seen – is that nightmares occur during REM while night terrors occur during non-REM. The two can be distinguished by your child's actions and how easy they are console. Following a nightmare, your child will be awake and likely crying. During a night terror, your child will still be in a deep sleep and impossible to console. During the night terror, they may scream, shake, and even sweat but fortunately, your child won't remember any of it the next morning.

How Can They Be Treated?

There is currently no treatment for night terrors, though there may be an underlying cause that can receive treatment and thereby, alleviate the night terrors.

Night terrors can be caused by a number of things or they can have no apparent cause. The most common causes include stress, sleep deprivation, fever, and sleep apnea. If your child is suffering from night terrors, bringing them to their pediatrician for an evaluation may help to rule out the above issues, or lead you closer to a diagnosis and treatment that can help.

When to Seek Outside Help for Your Child's Stress

In certain cases of night terrors there may be an underlying cause that can be treated. One such cause is stress and may be helped by a pediatric counselor.

If your child is undergoing stress in their life, or if they're dealing with anxiety, a counselor may be able to get to the root of the problem and help to relieve the night terrors. Stresses in your child's life can include a move, divorce, new school situation, or bullying. If your child's pediatrician suspects stress, they'll recommend a visit to a children's counselor who can help your child learn to cope with the stress and deal with them in healthy ways.

While your child doesn't remember their night terrors, they can still lend themselves to disrupted sleep for both you and your child. To learn more about sleep terrors, consult with your child's pediatrician or a counselor like Living Hope Clinic