Night terrors and nightmare are both sleep disturbances, and it can be confusing to tell the difference. Most parents comfort their children after having a nightmare, but when the child is likely inconsolable whatever you try, then he or she experienced night or sleep terrors because a night terror is far more dramatic than a nightmare; thus it is more alarming, however mostly it is not a cause for concern.
During our night sleep, there are several stages and each has its own brain activity; most dreaming happens in the REM stage “rapid eye movement”, but night terrors happen in non REM stage.
A night terror is technically more like a reaction of fear occurring during the transition from one sleep stage to another. When having night terrors, kids do not respond to reassure or comfort efforts, and they do not remember having it; this usually happens in the first two or three hours of sleep.
During a night terror, the child might suddenly shout out in distress with his or her heartbeat is faster, and after few minutes the kid calms down and gets back to sleep. Kids often remember their nightmares unlike night terrors, which they do not have any memory of because when it happened they were in deep sleep.
Night terrors happen due to over- arousal of the central nervous system during sleep, which may be inherited from a member in the family. They are noted in kids who are taking new medication, sleeping away from home, stressed, ill or fatigued. Night terrors are not common- in about 4- 6% of the kids, and they mostly disappear on their own when the nervous system matures.
They can be disturbing for parents who feel helpless to comfort their children; all they have to do is to wait it out patiently till the kid returns to sleep. Night terrors can be reduced by reducing the kid’s stress, ensuring he or she gets enough rest and sticking to a simple and relaxing bedtime routine.