First of all, night terrors are not the same as nightmares, although, to an observer’s point of view, the two may look similar. Night terrors are known by other names such as sleep terrors and pavor nocturnus. Parents commonly have it confused with nightmares, because it is common for children to feel afraid and scream and call out for their parent whenever they have a bad dream.
However, in addition to these common traits with nightmares, night terrors also cause children to scream in extreme terror and also the inability to regain consciousness. Simply put, this means that people suffering from night terrors are harder to wake up compared to those having nightmares. This disorder commonly occurs in children between 2 to 6 years old. Unlike a bad dream, however, a night terror can cause harm to a child’s state of mind because it is a seizure. Moreover, a night terror also causes people to temporarily have partial memory loss.
When a person wakes up from a night terror, he/she is likely to be under a severe state of fear. In these cases, a person won’t be able to remember his name and other things about himself, and also not recognize the people around him. This disorientation comes from the effect of fear. In the early stages of youth, children are very susceptible to the fear of losing their loved ones, especially their parents.
This becomes the cause of disturbing thoughts which leads to restlessness. Restlessness leads to lack of sleep. Night terrors are similar to sleep talking and sleep walking. All three are considered to be sleep disorders caused by lack of sleep and are very common among very restless children.
Similar with other seizures, a person suffering from night terror becomes very sweaty and has the distinct look of fear in his/her eyes. A person suffering from a seizure can only recover if he/she calms down, and regains composure. Although night terrors are not considered to be deadly, they can cause very deep traumas in children. Another reason why night terrors are confused with nightmares is because they occur after the first four hours of sleep.
A child, who suffers from night terrors, suddenly bolts upright and opens his/her eyes looking confused. In other cases, children also scream and cry. All these will look the same to a parent, but the significant difference is that a person who is suffering from night terrors is still asleep under these circumstances. A person behaving in the same way after a nightmare is already awake. A person suffering from night terrors, on the other hand is much harder to wake up.
What’s more, the person will wake up and have no memory of it. Night terrors usually go for 30 seconds to a few minutes. After which the person calms down as if nothing happened. The behavior of people going through night terrors is similar to people suffering form epilepsy of the frontal and temporal lobes.
In the case of children with night terrors, parents can see clearly that they suffer from it. The best thing that the parents can do is to help their children calm down so they can go back to regular sleep. The occurrence of night terrors is usually the same after the first time it starts. Commonly, the cause of night terrors is lack of rest, thus the most practical solution to avoid them is to have quality time for rest. If children sleep well, then they are less likely to have night terrors.
Also, children will learn to adapt and eventually they will outgrow having night terrors. Parents may also help them get through it sooner by waking them up before the night terrors occur. The logic behind it is to break the cycle over which the night terrors occur. After which, the night terrors will occur less often, if not eliminated completely. In some severe cases, medication may also be taken to help children relax, but this is only done if the previous two methods do not work.