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Night Terrors in Toddlers

Night terrors are not uncommon in children; nearly 15% of young children between the ages of two and six experience them at one time or another. Night terrors are more than just bad dreams or nightmares. They actually occur during sleep can cause toddlers to experience extreme signs of panic like sweating and increased heart rate.

Eyes Open During Night Terrors

A child experiencing a night terror may have eyes open and be screaming, but they are actually sleeping. Your child's reaction to a night terror may depend largely on how you react. If you panic yourself, your child may ultimately panic as well. Night terrors usually last only a few minutes during which your child may not recognize you or may be completely inconsolable. Eventually he will calm down and go back to sleep – probably before you do!

What Parents Can Do

Don't yell at him to wake up for force him to calm down. Try not to panic. The difference between a night terror and a nightmare is that kids having a nightmare are easily awakened. Kids in the throes of a night terror are not easily awakened. Interestingly, night terrors are a sort of seizure, but, don't worry, they are generally benign. Night terrors may be triggered by sleep deprivation, so make sure that you stick to regular bedtimes. Night terrors may also appear at about the same time every night – usually within the first half of the night. If your child has regular night terrors, try waking him up before that time to interrupt the sleep cycle. Most kids outgrow night terrors and are none the worse for the wear.

Parents can get pretty frazzled. Talk to your child's pediatrician about his night terrors. In some very extreme cases, medication may be necessary until your child outgrows them.