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Illnesses & Symptoms

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Nightmares-and-Night-Terrors.pngNightmares are frightening dreams that occur during REM sleep and awaken a child. They usually occur in the later part of the night.

Nightmares can result from a scary event, stress, a difficult time or change in a child's routine.

Most children have at least one nightmare during childhood. Three percent of preschool and school aged children experience frequent nightmares, according to the National Sleep Foundation's 2004 “Sleep in America” poll.

Reassuring your frightened child can help.

Use of a nightlight or security object (favorite doll or action figure) is often helpful for young children.

Most teens have nightmares on occasion, but frequent nightmares may signal a problem.

Some things can trigger more frequent nightmares, including being overtired, certain medications, drugs, or alcohol. The most common triggers for more frequent nightmares, though, are emotional, such as stress or anxiety. If nightmares are commonly interfering with sleep, it's a good idea to talk to a doctor, therapist, or other counselor.

Night (sleep) terrors occur earlier in the night than nightmares and do not fully awaken the child.

Sleep terrors cause uncontrollable screaming that may continue for several minutes. After the terror, the child will just drift back to sleep, and wake up in the morning with no memory of the entire event.

Sleep terrors may be caused by not getting enough sleep, an irregular sleep schedule, stress, or sleeping in a new environment. Increasing sleep time will help reduce the likelihood of a sleep terror.

For more information, visit the National Sleep Foundation website.

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Illnesses & Symptoms