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Night terrors are a fairly common problem which affects many babies around the world, usually between ages one to six. In this sleep disorder, which occurs during the third or the fourth phase of non-REM sleep, baby or child wakes up abruptly feeling completely confused and frightened. It usually takes a few moments for him or her to snap out of that state, and during that time they usually ignore attempts to wake them up.

Symptoms of night terrors

Most commonly, night terrors involve symptoms like extreme fear, panic and wide opened eyes due to those sensations, rapid heart rate, fast breathing, confusion and agitation, sometimes even violence, inability to talk and express feelings or to explain the trauma. Symptoms usually go away soon and the child, in most cases, has no recollection of what had happened.

Causes of night terrors

Night terrors can be caused by interruptions of baby’s sleep during the third and fourth phase of the non-rapid eye movement stages of sleep. Those interruptions are usually environmental, meaning loud noises, bright lights turned on suddenly, and similar.

Factors like stress, emotional or physical trauma, fatigue, insufficient sleep, hostile or otherwise bad home environment and personal relations at home, violent movies, scary stories, but also fever and some diseases can all be factors which may result in night terrors in some children.

Other causes may include side effects of medications, family history of sleep disorders, substance abuse and chronic sleep deprivation.

How to treat night terrors

If the child has night terrors, there are several things that the parents are advised to do. If the child has already had night terrors, it is recommended to dim the lights and sound-proof the child’s room. It may help to give the child some chamomile or to place a tissues soaked in orange oil, lavender or chamomile under the child’s pillow. When night terrors occur, parents should try to gently comfort the child and cuddle until he or she goes back to sleep again.

Sleep deprivation can trigger night terrors so it is very important to maintain regular sleeping schedules. Babies need more sleep than adults, usually around 13 hours altogether.

Possible treatment for children who have night terrors may include relaxation techniques, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy and similar methods. Medications usually prescribed for night terrors include antidepressants like Tofranil, or the drug chlordiazepoxide, used to relieve tension, and nervousness.

Most babies and young children stop having night terrors as they grow up. In only a few they continue even throughout the adult life.

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