Your child, who has been sleeping peacefully, suddenly begins to scream. His eyes are glazed and he doesn`t seem to see you at all, but there is a look of terror on his face. What you think might help murmuring words of comfort and trying to take him into your arms-just causes even more agitation.
Unlike the more common nightmares, night terrors occur during the deepest stages of sleep. Episodes can last from five to 40 minutes, during which your child can be extremely agitated. He may suddenly sit up in bed, thrash, speak incoherently, scream, cry inconsolably, appear pale and terrified, perspire, and/or stare with eyes wide open and pupils dilated. Hard as it is to believe, a child experiencing a night terror is actually asleep through the whole episode and won`t remember it in the morning. Normally when we rouse from sleep, our body and mind wake up together. But in a night terror, the mind is still fast asleep.
Night terrors are more common in boys than in girls and are more apt to occur if there`s a family history of nigh terrors, sleepwalking, or bedwetting. And some children experience night terror occasionally; while others suffer bouts of them every night for weeks at a time.
How to make it better (not worse)?
Don`t try to rouse him out of it. Trying to wake a child having a night terror usually just makes it worse. Instead, try to help your child lie back down in bed so that he can fall back to sleep.
If your child has bouts of night terrors, don`t let him sleep through the night. If you wake your child once, about 30 minutes after he`s fallen asleep, then allow him to go back to sleep, you`ll short-circuit a night terror. A night terror strikes about 90 minutes into a night`s sleep. By waking the child, you`ll break up the first, deepest sleep of the night, so the terror can`t occur.