Kids night terrors can be as frightening to the parent, as it is for the child experiencing them. Parents can feel helpless and there is no fear like awakening a child screaming in their bedroom. Scientists and doctors have been getting closer to having more concrete answers as to why kids have night terrors, but for now, they have only been able to get a recognizable trend between some children that have night terrors.
In order to know how to handle the problem, you must first identify what is causing it. About 15% of children experience at least one night terror per week. Experts believe that there are reoccurring trends between many children that have night terrors. One cause that seems to be very common is over stimulation of the nervous system or when the brain is transitioning from Stage 4 sleep to REM sleep.
Scientists believe that kids night terrors are caused by some form of overstimulation. They suggest to avoid caffeine and electronic screens before bed. This should help the child’s brain calm down so a night terror may be prevented. Doctors also suggest maintaining a consistent routine. A regular wake-up and bedtime routine will help the child go to sleep easier and more naturally. This will also have a calming effect on their brain.
When developing a bedtime routine, include soft music, comfortable kid’s bedding and perhaps a stuffed animal to help them feel safe. All of these suggestions will encourage melatonin production which will help them feel sleepy. When they are able to fall asleep naturally, it allows their brain to shut down and fall asleep. It is also believed that high levels of stress can lead to night terrors. In order to try to prevent night terrors, parents should limit the amount of stress before bed. Attempt using positive discipline, and avoid yelling or arguments in the home before bedtime. This enables the child’s body to produce more cortisol, which will aid in helping them sleep soundly.
Colds, fevers and allergies are also believed to trigger night terrors. When the air passages are blocked, it makes it more difficult to breathe. The child then may dream that they are unable to breathe at all, and have a night terror as a result. Make every effort to relieve symptoms of any sickness before sending them to bed. Not all kids night terrors will be prevented. It is important to be prepared for the times that will occur that the child will have a night terror. Make sure the kid’s room design is set up for maximum protection against the effects of night terrors. Often children will run or thrash around as a result of their dream. Make sure to have décor that is not going to be in the way or cause them any undue harm.
Night terrors are extremely scary for everyone involved. Most happen in children between 2 and 6 years old, but that does not mean that older children will not have a night terror. As the child’s brain matures, they will likely outgrow them. While they are experiencing these horrific dreams, use these tips to prevent them as much as possible. Allow them to pick out their bedding, their music and avoid stress at all cost. Together the parent and child will be able to weather the storm and get a good night’s rest.