How to distinguish between nightmares and night terrors

The dream of the children is one of the topics that most interest parents and also, one of the ones that can worry the most. When they are babies, for example, we wonder at what time they will be able to sleep all night. And while an age comes when they finally do (or at least they won't get up as often), there are certain sleep problems that may occur.

One of them is night terrors, a sleep disorder that first appears during preschool age. Sometimes, it is difficult to differentiate between these and a bad dream, so we share how can you distinguish between nightmares and night terrors.

What is a night terror

Night terrors, also sometimes known as sleep fears, they are part of childhood parasomnias, like nightmares and sleepwalking. Because they suddenly interrupt sleep and are similar to the reaction children have after a nightmare, it is difficult for some parents to identify each other.

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These night terrors they usually appear in children from the age of three, and in some cases they may disappear until adolescence. But in general, they are rare and affect a low percentage of children (about five percent), so in most cases we would be talking about a nightmare.

There is no single cause for night terrors, however most experts on the subject considers that they are due to the maturation process of the brain, as a kind of night readjustment. They could also be triggered by other factors such as stress, lack of sleep or fever, and just as they appear suddenly, they can also disappear.

Seven keys to distinguish between nightmares and night terrors

As I said at the beginning, being similar to nightmares, it may be difficult to differentiate between the two, so we share seven keys that will help you know if it's a nightmare or a night terror.

If you wake up or not

Nightmares are a dream that causes a lot of fear, followed by a complete awakening. Unlike these, during a night terror the child may appear awake, but in reality it is a partial awakening from a phase of very deep sleep.

The moment we realize what happens

The nightmare we noticed when it has passed and the child wakes up and tells us about her, instead, in the night terrors the child shouts and moves agitated and desperate while it is taking place, then calm down and wake up, do not remember what happened.

The period of the night in which they are presented

Nightmares usually appear very late in the sleep period, usually between four and six in the morning, when dreams are more vivid. The night terrors, on the other hand, they occur when sleep is very deep, in the first part of the night, either during the first hour or between one and three in the morning.

The child's appearance and behavior

When he has a nightmare, the child cries and remains scared after waking up. During a night terror, The child sits, shakes and makes strange movements, while crying, screaming, moans and even speaks. You can have your eyes wide open, be sweaty and have a fast heartbeat. All these fears and confusion disappear when you finally wake up.

The reaction to your presence

Upon waking from a nightmare, the child can go on your search for comfort, or else, he realizes your presence and calms down when he sees you. When a night terror happens, the boy seems not to realize that you are with him, and even, it can try to separate you, shouting and shaking even more if you try to immobilize it.

The ease with which you fall asleep again

After a nightmare, you may find it hard to go back to sleep because of how scared you feel. During a night terror, or rather, when it has passed, the child quickly falls asleep again without waking up completely.

Your memory of the experience

In the case of nightmares, the child remembers what he has dreamed and can tell you about it. Instead, after having lived a night terror, the child does not remember anything he has dreamed, nor the agitation or the screams He had during this one.

What to do if your child has night terrors

The issue of night terrors can be very distressing for parents. On other occasions we have shared some things you can do to avoid its appearance, among which the reduce the child's stress levels and help him relax before bedtime.

In Babies and more, does your child have nightmares or night terrors? So you can help him

Both nightmares and night terrors disappear as children grow, and its presence is usually for a short time, so we must be patient and accompany you as best as possible.

In case both appear frequently or for a prolonged period, it is always best to discuss it with the pediatrician or a specialist, to investigate the possible reasons why they continue to present themselves and to give us the appropriate recommendations to treat our children in a personalized way.

Photos | iStock

Video: Nightmare vs. Night Terror (March 2020).