Although they look alike, there are many differences between nightmares and night terrors. How to distinguish them? It all depends on the degree of spectacularity, the difficulty in calming and waking up the child or the moment in which they occur.
We explain the characteristics of one and the other so that you also learn to distinguish nightmares from episodes of night terrors.
All of us who have children have lived the experience of wake up to the desperate cries of our children in the middle of the night. This is one of the similarities between nightmares and night terrors. Both cause anxiety, fear, and sudden 'awakenings' preceded by screaming or crying of distress during the night. But unlike nightmares, which are very common in childhood, night terrors are rare and usually affect only 3% to 6% of school-age children.
1. One of the most important differences between night terrors and nightmares is that the former are much more spectacular and more distressing.. The screams and movements of the child experiencing an episode of night terrors cause much more alarm to parents than one of those nightmares that we are used to comforting. However, it should be noted that despite this spectacularity, night terrors are not a symptom of a latent medical disorder or problem.
2. A child may have an episode of night terrors and never have it again. or instead continue to have several until they end up gradually disappearing. Nightmares can appear at any time in our lives.
3. We will recognize that the child suffers from night terrors and not a nightmare because night terrors appear a few hours after falling asleep and at the time of transition from REM to non-REM phases, sleep phases in which we will not go into this article, but To make it understandable, let's say that they usually appear between before 2 in the morning.
4. The child suffering from night terrors shakes suddenly, sits up in bed, screams, appears terrified, disoriented, and does not recognize the people around him. He has tachycardia, he's drenched in sweat, and his pupils are dilated. It may seem like a nightmare but no, because the child does not calm down or wake up when we go to his side.
5. Unlike nightmares, the child who suffers from an episode of night terrors it is difficult to wake up or calm down And if he does, he is unable to explain what is wrong with him due to his confusion. He does not remember anything of the dream because night terrors are not exactly a dream but an experience of intense fear that occurs in the transition from one phase of sleep to another.
Once the crisis is over, the child goes back to sleep peacefully, without fear and without remembering anything about what happened. Parents are the ones who are overwhelmed by what happened, which may have lasted between 1 and 20 minutes.
There is no treatment for night terrors more than trying to calm the child who suffers them and reduce stress throughout the day. Fortunately, the episodes will gradually subside from the age of 9-10 years, but we must seek professional help if the terrors occur very frequently and we fear that the child may be hurt during one of them.
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