Night terrors, unlike nightmares, are seldom remembered and happen during slow-wave sleep. And unlike nightmares, night terrors often occur without the person dreaming about any situation or event, but rather due to emotional fear itself. These scary instances are often accompanied by sweating, flailing, screaming, and fast breathing.
It is no Nightmare on Elm Street, you would probably survive the episode.
You would not even remember any of your night terror, most likely, if you do experience such. However, people you sleep with could be frightened to death, which is why getting rid of it can resolve your differences at bedtime. Do not worry about night terrors, they are so much better than nightmares. At least you have the luxury of memory lapse. And if you really hate your roommate, you can frighten him or her without even trying, now that is effortless brilliance!
Rate of Occurrence
Night terrors are often experienced by children aged four to twelve, but can also occur to people at all ages. If you suffer from night terrors, you probably had episodes within a few hours after falling asleep. You may suddenly wake up screaming, sweating, and panicky. Episodes may last anywhere from five to twenty minutes. During this time, you are actually asleep. Your eyes may open, you may talk, and you may look awake, but you are actually asleep and unconsciously doing all that.
Causes of Night Terrors
- Lack of sleep
- Extreme tension, stress or anxiety
- Excessive tiredness at bedtime
- Fever or illness
- Disrupted sleep schedule
- Alcohol intake
- Drug abuse
- Some medications
- Accidents involving head injury
- Eating a heavy meal prior to bedtime
Diagnosing Night Terrors
Night terrors are primarily diagnosed by observing the person suffering from an episode; he or she may be showing the following symptoms:
- Gasping, moaning, crying or screaming during sleep
- Little or no recollection of the episode upon awakening
- Intense fear upon awakening
- Cannot recall the occurrence in the morning
- Frequent awakenings, often with violent actions
- Difficulty of awakening
- Rapid pulse and pounding of the heart
- Sudden awakening from sleepwalking
- Fear or terror during episodes
General Treatment for Night Terrors
- Reduce stress
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Consult a doctor about medications
- Undergo hypnosis or biofeedback
You personally cannot stop yourself from a night terror episode once it happens. Treatment for night terrors should be performed before going to bed. However, as for all treatments, nothing is absolute. You may still experience night terrors, in which case, teach someone ways on how to help you in those situations. You can also help others who experience these frightening episodes.
The goal should be to help the affected person achieve a calm state of sleep. Turn the lights on and direct soothing comments toward the person. Avoid abrupt gestures such as shouting or shaking the person to startle them out of the episode. Avoid any form of stress as much as possible.
If you are affected by severe and frequent night terrors, as you have been told, seek medical assistance or analysis. You should be evaluated by a physician so he or she could recommend the best treatment for your condition. In some severe cases, the physician may prescribe benzodiazepine tranquilizer, such as Diazepam, which is known to suppress the period of sleep where night terrors occur. You may also seek the help of a sleep disorder specialist.
Take note, however, that episodic night terrors in children are normal and do not require psychological analyses or medical assistance. In adults, night terrors are often caused by significant stress-related or emotional problems.
Preventing Night Terrors
For children who seem to have a regular pattern of night terror episodes, constant monitoring should be employed. The child should be gently awakened about 15 minutes before episodes usually happen. Keep the child awake and out of bed, then be allowed to return to bed after a short period of time. Sleep deprivation is a strong trigger for night terrors. The child should not be allowed to become overtired or stressed out, or else an episode may occur regardless. Let the child take a nap during the day.
For adults, avoid stress and the consumption of alcoholic beverages and stimulants before going to bed. Be sure to have enough sleep every night to avoid future episodes.
Tips on How to Avoid and Handle Night Terror Episodes in Children
Adults are more capable of handling night terror episodes. Since you cannot remember anything, you could condition yourself to approach the whole situation in a lighter mood. Upon awakening, you would be able to handle yourself as if nothing happens. For children, however, it is a different situation. They may not have the will power and emotional strength to go through episodic night terrors, which could have an adverse effect on their psyche.
Here are tips on how to handle night terror episodes in children:
- Do not hug or shake the child. Waking the child would only bring about fear.
- Stay close to the child until he or she falls into a normal sleep again.
- Turn on the lights and talk softly to relax and assure the child that he or she is safe.
- Monitor the child to ensure that he or she does not do anything harmful, like falling out of bed.
- Night terrors may lead to sleepwalking. In such instances, guide the child gently back to bed without waking him or her.
- Keep the room safe in case the child sleepwalks. Avoid upper bunks and remove obstructions from the floor.
- Warn other people about the child’s night terror and educate them on how to deal with such occurrence.
- Maintain scheduled meals for the child.
- Ask the child to go to the bathroom before sleeping. Night terrors can sometimes cause children to wet their beds.
- Check for fever or illness that may cause night terrors.
- Night terrors often occur about the same time every night. Set the alarm to remind you when to wake the child before an episode.
- Consult a doctor regarding the child’s condition. Ask for medications if needed.
- If you believe the episodes may be caused by emotional or stress-related problems, you may consult a psychiatrist or counselor.
Night terrors can be frightening and disturbing. Episodic night terrors may affect your life or the lives of your loved ones if not handled properly.
Regardless of age, a nice sleep always helps. The lack of it may result to physical, mental, emotional, and psychological problems. Live a healthy lifestyle and your night terror would probably be a thing of the past. Remember, a happy and relaxed home creates a safe and cozy environment that does not harbor negative vibes.
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