Nightmares and night terrors and sleep walking..oh my!
Updated: Feb 4
This topic has come up a ton recently, and that is NO surprise.
Traumatic night wakings peak around this time of year for a couple reasons…
School starting (overtired) and Halloween (too much spooky stuff out there).
Here are the main differences between the two.
Night terrors are scary. If you have experienced one with your child, you know what I am talking about. They occur 2-3 hours after falling asleep during the transition from non-REM to REM sleep. They will be terrified/inconsolable and unable to make eye contact. They will NOT remember the episode the next day, and it won’t feel like a dream because it did not occur in REM sleep. They affect a small percentage of kids and could be inherited, so be sure to ask your parents if you experienced them. It’s best to keep engagement very low and do not try and “snap them out of it”.
Nightmares, on the other hand, are super common. We all have them frequently and they occur just as often as our weird/wacky/crazy dreams do. They occur in REM sleep, and we wake or rouse after it's over because the sleep cycle has ended. Your child may wake up scared and want to tell you about it or maybe they are sweaty and crying. It is okay to console and tell them, “it was just a dream”.
I encourage you to keep your sensitive little ones as far away from the scary Halloween stuff as possible. If you know there is a spooky house down the streets with music, lights and people in masks, steer far away from it!
Here are some tips for reducing scary night wakings:
1. Keep screen time monitored
2. Avoid overtiredness (tantrums, rubbing eyes, screaming and throwing fits)
3. Reduce stress when possible (see above)
4. Try the wake to sleep approach if you suspect reoccurring night terrors (gently rouse them 15-20 minutes before a typical episode occurs)