Nightmares and night terrors can become a source of serious concern for both the child as well as the parents if they start occurring regularly. There is slight difference between these two sleep problems in kids.
Nightmares usually trouble a child during the REM period. REM stands for ‘rapid eye movement’ and it is a phase of sleep when the eyes are not at all still and thus indicate feverish brain activity. Nightmares are not of a regular length but they have one characteristic and that is that the child always tends to remember them. So, their frequent occurrence can really be a tormenting experience for your child.
On the other hand, Night Terrors do not occur during the REM period but they occur about one or two hours after the child has gone in the lap of sleep. They may be of a small duration or may extend up to even an hour. The child may keep his eyes totally open during this period but otherwise he is completely asleep and has no connection with the outside world. On being awake, the child does not show any memory of these night terrors.
Dealing with nightmares & night terrors
If your child is experiencing either of the two conditions, there are several methods that can be adopted to soothe and calm him. These techniques are for the time when your child is about to sleep as well as for the time after he awakens from it. First of all the time when your child has to sleep, should not involve any busy, exciting or noisy activity. He should sleep in a calm and serene atmosphere.
Children tend to sleep very quietly and peacefully in the presence of their parent. All the more, if you sing a lullaby to your child or tell him a beautiful story, his chances of being tormented by the nightmares and night terrors are reduced to a minimum. This will also come in handy after the child has got up from his sleep. It is also necessary that the parents should behave in a very relaxed way, once the child is awake. It is because the child is intelligent enough to judge from our expressions whether something is wrong or not. If he finds his parents worried he would become very difficult to be tackled.
Make it a point to sleep near your child, from where you can hear his cry in case he is frightened and cries at night. You should have a baby monitor for this, as they are very useful for the purpose. You should try to reach your child in the least possible time because he needs your immediate attention and care at this juncture. If your child is crying but not awake, don’t force him to get up. Rather wait till he gets up on his own. Or else, lie down with your child and do so until he sleeps peacefully again. After that, don’t continue sleeping with your child because it may be detrimental to his confidence and he may get even more frightened in future. He may develop fear of his own room or things and such a habit once developed is very difficult to change. So, avoid too much protection of the child and allow him to get rid of nightmares and night terrors on his own. Always be there for his help but don’t allow him to become dependent on you.