How to cope with night terrors

Night terrors can be a scary experience and can happen to both adults and children. They are most common in children aged 3 – 8.

TEMPUR explores why night terrors occur, and how to deal with them whether you are experiencing them yourself or your child suffers them…

What are night terrors?

First off, night terrors are different to nightmares. Night terror is a sleep disorder that causes intense feelings of fear experienced when waking in the night.

Someone having a night terror will not be fully awake during an episode, even if their eyes are open. They may scream, cry, shout, thrash around, or get out of bed, and it can be difficult to wake them from sleep. They may not even remember having a night terror the next day.

Night terrors typically occur between stage 3 of non-REM sleep and stage 4 non-REM sleep, which usually happens around 90 minutes after falling asleep. Night terrors normally last a couple of minutes, but they have been known to last longer before falling back to sleep.

What causes night terrors?

Night terrors can be triggered by a range of factors, such as fatigue, being unwell, some types of medication, or other intense feelings such as excitement or anxiety.

Sometimes night terrors can be caused by life stress, such as a traumatic or upsetting event.

Night terrors in children

Children who have previously sleepwalked are more susceptible to night terrors. Having night terrors may also run in the family.

If your child is having a night terror, it is key to stay calm. Don’t try to wake them, as this may cause distress and confusion. During the day, try to follow a set routine in the lead-up to bedtime, and make sure that their bedroom is a safe haven for them to sleep in.

If you are concerned about your child, try having a casual chat with them to see if anything is playing on their mind. You could also take them to see a doctor or a paediatrician for some expert advice.

Night terrors in adults

Some people may not know that adults can also have night terrors! Some adults may even feel embarrassed about having them. However, adult night terrors are just real, and can be as upsetting for grown ups as they are for children.

Adult night terrors are believed to be linked to life stress, traumatic incidents, or psychological disorders but again, they can also be hereditary.

Adults can treat night terrors with medication or natural herbal remedies. Sufferers can also opt for counselling or therapy to work through issues and traumatic events in a safe environment.

It could be useful to keep a night terror diary – are there any common factors which seem to be contributing to them? As always if you feel that night terrors pose a serious risk to you or your family, you should always consult an expert.

Do you or your child suffer from night terrors? Do you have any tips for coping with them? Let us know in the comments below…


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