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Night terrors

What is the difference between night terrors and nightmares? My son has never had either, until recently and now I don't know what's going on. He started sleeping through the night at 4 months of age and has done so every night of his life until 8 days ago. Now every morning between 6-6:15am he wakes up screaming about something that seems not at all scary to me. Example, this morning he woke up hysterical and came running into my room (right on schedule 6:08am) and said the man stole his juice. That was all he said but he was absolutely hysterical about it. What's the deal, is this night terrors or do I need to be more concerned? Is there something I can do to help him not have them? The morning before (6:02am) it was a black bear. When I finally got him to wake up he just asked where the black bear was and then went back to sleep next to me. And no, he was not watching horror films before sleeping so no need to bash.

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Asked by ba13ygrl1987 at 2:50 PM on Jun. 9, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 19 (7,805 Credits)
Answers (6)
  • A night terror, also known as a sleep terror or pavor nocturnus, is a parasomnia disorder characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. The subject wakes abruptly from slow-wave sleep, with waking usually accompanied by gasping, moaning, or screaming. It is often impossible to fully awaken the person, and after the episode the subject normally settles back to sleep without waking. A night terror can rarely be recalled by the subject. They typically occur during non-rapid eye movement sleep.


    Answer by TheDiva320 at 2:55 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

  • A nightmare is a dream which causes a strong unpleasant emotional response from the sleeper, typically fear or horror, being in situations of extreme danger, or the sensations of pain, bad events, falling, drowning or death. Such dreams can be related to physical causes such as a high fever, turned faced down on a pillow during sleep (most often in the case of drowning nightmares), or psychological ones such as psychological trauma or stress in the sleeper's life, or can have no apparent cause. If a person has experienced a psychologically traumatic situation in life—for example, a person who may have been captured and tortured—the experience may come back to haunt them in their nightmares. Sleepers may waken in a state of distress and be unable to get back to sleep for some time. Eating before bed, which triggers an increase in the body's metabolism and brain activity, is another potential stimulus for nightmares[1].


    Answer by TheDiva320 at 2:56 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

  • Nightmares, unlike night terrors, can be recalled afterward and are accompanied by much less anxiety and movement. These frightening dream experiences, which tend to occur at times of insecurity, emotional turmoil, depression, or guilt, can occur in all age groups.

    The sleep disorder of night terrors typically occurs in children aged 3-12 years, with a peak onset in children aged 3½ years.

    Answer by TheDiva320 at 3:00 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

  • I'm pretty sure he's having night terrors cause he's never fully awake when he comes to my room and he's just hysterical saying the same thing over and over...when he finally wakes up hours later he doesn't remember anything being wrong. So is there anything i can do to help him or do I just get to wake up every morning at 6am to a horrified child?

    Answer by ba13ygrl1987 at 3:34 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

  • Well, my four year old has started doing that a few months ago... and i know some may critisize, but I put a bible under her pillow and they immediately stopped.. I am not completely sure why they started to begin with because we aren't a horror movie type family.. I don't care for them.. but I do know that one of my ped's told me once that when a child is trying to reach a milestone or is adjusting to something and can't quite seem to get it done..(potty training, going to school, adjusting to a move, etc.) they will do this.. its their way of processing.. I know thats not real helpful but you aren't alone.. I am going thru it currently with seperation she thinks i am gonna leave her wherever I go, no matter how many times we tell her we will NEVER leave her anywhere. Which is odd because she has only spent the night at my inlaws 2 blocks away abour 5 times her entire life!!! yeah, i am attached! Good luck tho!

    Answer by Mom2Meredith at 10:09 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

  • im glad my dd isnt the only one who does this....she been going through them since she was 2 yrs old...and after me and her dad seperated they got worse...i was told by family members who delt with this not to wake her up but its hard to listen to her scream and i cant comfort her.

    Answer by rainmommy at 10:23 PM on Jun. 9, 2009

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