Episode #21: Nightmares & Night Terrors: The Difference and Helping Your Child Cope

Throughout my work with clients I've found Nightmares and Night Terrors are vastly misunderstood. On today's episode I aim to educate you on the difference between night mares and night terrors, as well as give you strategies to help you child cope with either one. 

Nightmares

  • Nightmares tend to occur several hours after going to bed or in the very early hours of the morning during REM sleep.
  • Children DO respond to comfort and reassurance. They also may be reluctant to go back to sleep until they feel safe.
  • Nightmares occur during the stage of sleep when the brain is very active and sorting through experiences and new information for learning and memory. Since these images are so vivid your child might not be able to distinguish what’s real and what’s not real.

Night Terrors

  • Night Terrors tend to occur 2-3 hours after going to bed and during deep non-REM sleep.
  • Only children ages 2.5 years + can experience a night terror
  • Children DO NOT respond to efforts of comfort and reassurance and it’s best not to wake them during a Night Terror.
  • Children will not remember Night Terrors and are not awake during their episodes. There are no mental images for the child to recall from their experience.

Overtiredness is one main cause for both night mares and night terrors. To help your child work through these, try adjusting their bedtime 15 minutes earlier to see a difference in their sleep. 

*AAP Charton how much sleep your child needs by age.*

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