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Nightmare and Night Terrors

By Hilary Gibson, Staff Writer

(Page 2 of 2)

Children enter their deepest sleep of the night within 15 minutes of falling asleep. This stage of deep, non-REM sleep usually lasts between 45 to 75 minutes. It’s at this point when children typically transition from deep sleep to a lighter stage of sleep or even wake up briefly before falling back to sleep. Night terrors happen when a child becomes stuck in the deepest stage of sleep, and is unable to come out of it and move on to the next stage of sleep. The episode may last as short as a minute, or as long as 40 minutes. 

Parents should not try to comfort the child through holding or cuddling when a night terror happens since this may give the child an even stronger sense of being forceably restrained. Trying to wake them will prolong an episode, however turning on some lights may be calming. You should also protect your child from injury by standing between them and windows, or moving furniture. 

Night terrors can be treated with medications, hypnotherapy, or with other types of relaxation training if there seems to be a serious problem. However, the best way to try and “treat” night terrors is through prevention. Keeping your child from getting overly tired, by carefully scheduling waking and sleeping times, and by taking the child to the bathroom before your bedtime can help in contributing to the prevention of night terrors.


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