Night terrors usually occur within 1-3 hours after falling asleep, during a night terror [question(“value”), id=”900″] doesn’t respond to attempts at comfort, and doesn’t remember the episode in the morning. During night terrors children will often scream suddenly as if panicked, thrash and kick, and sometimes panick even more if you try to hug or restrain them.
Nightmares usually occur later in the night, [question(“value”), id=”900″] would usually respond to your attempts at comfort, and remember the dream (whether or not they are able to articulate it to you). Nightmares can also induce screaming, but it would more commonly be preceded by whimpering or crying as they transition from the dream to awake.
You can check whether it is a night terror by moving your face towards your child’s face, then away again. If your child tracks your face with his eyes then it is not a night terror. If your child doesn’t track your face then it is most probably a night terror.
Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about night terrors when they happen apart from trying to keep your child safe. Do not touch your child (unless you need to for safety reasons). Children usually don’t wake up during night terrors and won’t remember the episode. It is best not to wake your child during a night terror.
However, there are steps you can take to prevent night terrors.
Night terrors are more common when children are over-tired or sleep deprived. Fixing up sleep habits at other times of day, such as getting your child to bed when sleepy at night and allowing for adequate nap time during the day should help.
A relaxed bedtime routine can also help.
For more information of night terrors see:
There is some great information on dealing with nightmares here:
http://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=nightmares-and-night-terrors-90-P02257 (Half way down the page)
Please add your experiences in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child at the time. What helped? What didn’t?