Nightmares and Night Terrors

When my son turned a year old, we started to noticed that he would wake up in the middle of the night and scream at the top of his lungs. We didn’t know what was going on until I started to research nightmares and night terrors.

There is a difference between a nightmare and a night terror.  A nightmare happens in the REM phase of sleep and usually wakes the child up.  While a night terror happens in a deeper stage of sleep and the child is technically still asleep.  The child most likely will not remember a night terror, while they might a nightmare.

As a parent, it is difficult to hear or see your child being so scared, but there are things you can do to help ease your child when he/she has a nightmare or night terror.

  • Get to you child as quickly as possible.
  • Reassure your child that it is safe and you are there.
  • Remain clam.  Children can sense emotions and react to that emotion.
  • Stay with your child until he/she is calm.
  • Use soothing techniques until your child is calm.  Sing, rub their back, speak gently.
There are also things that make the nightmare or night terror worse.
    • If your child sleeps in their own bed, encourage them to stay there rather than letting them come into your bed.  They may get the idea that their room or bed is the problem if you take them out of it.
    • Avoid telling your child that the nightmares aren’t real.  Nightmares are very real to your child and telling him/her that it isn’t may upset them even more.
    • If it is a night terror please DO NOT wake your child up.  This may make it worse.  Try to use calming words like “Mommy/Daddy is here to protect you.”
Whether it is a nightmare or night terror it is difficult to watch our children go through it. The best thing you can do is  to make sure that your child feels safe and secure.


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