Some children suffer from night terrors in pre-school age or even early on during school. All of a sudden they wake up and scream. Sometimes they swing their arms around, making it difficult or even impossible for parents to calm them down.
The children are also not responsive even though their eyes are open -and the children even talk to themselves in some cases. "Parents should quietly talk to their children and assure them that they are safe and make sure that they do not injure themselves," said Ulrich Fegeler from the German Paediatricians' Association.
"Waking up a child in this phase doesn't make much sense since they would have no orientation or be bewildered, and it would be difficult for them to fall back to sleep," said Fegeler. In this condition, the child is neither really awake nor asleep. The night terror - called Pavor nocturnus - lasts only between 5 and 15 minutes. The affected child will fall back to sleep on their own.
What are night terrors?
Between 3% to 6% of children experience night terror. They usually occur one to four hours after falling asleep - in the non-REM stages of sleep. As opposed to nightmares, the child cannot remember anything when they wake up from a night terror. This sleeping disorder isn't connected with psychological problems and has no lasting effect.
A night terror occurs when the not-yet fully developed nervous system is overly aroused during sleep. Often there is a certain tendency in the family. "Over-tired or sick children have a disposition more to the development of a night terror," said Fegeler. "New medication or sleeping in an unusual environment can also provoke a night terror."
The number of instances can be decreased through a regular bed time, less stress and over tiredness as well as bed-time rituals. If the night-time attacks occur often, parents should discuss it with their paediatrician.
(Sapa, September 2012)
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