One of the most common sleep disorders in childhood is night terrors. These can be a real nightmare for parents, because most of the time, our children do not know!
Imagine the following: You are a 20-year-old student who helps pay her expenses by babysitting in your spare time. One night, the mother whose daughter you are going to take care of explains to you calmly and deliberately: “At around 11 at night you will hear a scream that will freeze your blood. It is not necessary to call the exorcist, she is my daughter and she will go back to sleep alone. What would you do if you were in this situation?
I have no idea what went through my babysitter’s head, I only know that she hid her surprise very well and that when she returned, she did not look like she had seen — or heard — a ghost. That night my daughter did not scream at eleven, but only at 9:15 pm, a few minutes after her dad and I left home to go to dinner.
Night terrors in children
From before reaching her first birthday, our little girl began to suffer from the dreaded night terrors. As with almost all parents, the visit to the pediatrician was the first mandatory step, confirming that physiologically everything was fine. We then followed a series of recommendations with more or less scientific support, until one night, exhausted until saying enough, neither of us gathered enough energy to get out of bed to comfort her and, to our surprise, our daughter fell asleep again! alone! There yes, we both reacted with a mixture of relief and apprehension.
I invite you to reread: Nightmares and night terrors
Rosa Jové describes night terrors as one of the most common sleep disorders among children. The author notes that these typically occur up to five years of age, although they can last into adulthood. She comments that they are due to disruptions in the transition from one stage of sleep to another, although they are usually associated with other types of problems such as stress or fatigue. Here are some tips to know how to handle them:
Do not enter his room at the first sign of awakening, if you wait a few minutes, it is very likely that the little one can go back to sleep alone.
2. Make sure their environment is safe
This should always be a premise. If you use a crib, that the bars are high and the spaces between them large enough so that they do not get stuck and of the right size so that your head does not fit. Avoid using blankets, pillows or toys that can suffocate her, as well as cords on toys or mobiles. Check the hot or cold conditions inside your room.
3. Stay close
Especially in the beginning, stay close to your child to ensure that at that time he does not endanger or injure himself.
4. Don’t touch it
Avoid touching him – many repel physical contact – and don’t try to wake him up. If night terrors are what you are facing, after a few minutes you will be back to sleep alone.
5. Try to identify possible causes
Remember: what happened today, different from yesterday? Did you sleep later or were you more tired? Did you eat too much dinner? Were you positively or negatively overstimulated? Did you throw an epic tantrum? Are your parents especially stressed? Are you facing significant changes in your environment?
6. Sleep routines
Try to maintain a sleep routine, remember that these are one of the main sources of safety for children.
If what your child faces are night terrors, he will not remember the terrifying scream he gave the night before, so there is no need to harass him with questions, indicating that something very strange is happening during his sleep. They just need to arm themselves with patience (and maybe chamomile tea) and take it with philosophy. There will be time to call the exorcist, we still have many years to be parents.
I also suggest you reread: Tips so that children are not afraid of the dark