Of the various sleeping disorders, night terrors is one of the prominent signs of sleep dysfunction. Many confuse night terrors with nightmares, but the condition is quite different from that of a nightmare and far more dramatic than the latter – nightmares are terrifying dreams, but night terrors are not dreams, they’re disturbances caused due to fear, where the conscious mind of the person experiencing the condition is affected by the fallacies in the subconscious. This condition is commonly seen among children – you may find your child suddenly waking up from sleep, and screaming from the bedroom. Where the severity of the condition varies among individuals, depending on their medical background, age, sex, family history, and several other factors, night terrors can occur in intervals of weeks or days. The person may also experience such episodes consecutively for two or three nights, or twice during the same night. This article brings to light the causes of such episodes, given below are some tips that will help you prevent night terrors.
Night terrors are sudden reactions of fear that can last for few minutes. These occur during the transition from one sleep cycle to the other, where each cycle lasts for a total of 90 minutes. People experience night terrors typically in the early hours of sleep, and can also occur during daytime naps. Disturbances are caused due to the person’s fear which arises from the subconscious, when he/she shifts from one cycle to the other. Studies denote that about one to six percent among total population of children, and one percent among the total population of adults, are subject to night terrors, at least once in their lifetime.
While most of times they are confused and anxious, children may also hurt themselves when they wake up suddenly. This condition can even be seen in adults, where there are various parameters that trigger night terrors. Sometimes, sleep disorders can also be hereditary, in which case, if there is a family history of sleeping disorders, you are more prone to such disorders. In most cases, people suffering from night terrors do not remember anything about the disturbing episodes during night, when they wake up in the morning. Sleep terrors start occurring when the person is between 4 to 12 years of age, where the most number of episodes are experienced between the ages of 20 to 30.
Causes of night terrors:
- Night terrors are not caused because of the physiological disorders, they are caused due to psychological or emotional stress
- Irregular patterns in sleep (in many cases, happens due to frequent rotational shifts), and lack of adequate restful sleep may result in night terrors
- Exposure to certain stimulants, such as listening to horror stories before going to sleep, could also be a trigger factor
- Children and adults suffering from mental instability and mood disorders also experience night terrors
- Use of drugs and certain medication will also cause sleep disorders
- Air travelers who elapse multiple time zones within a few hours, and those suffering from jet lags are at more risk when it comes to night terrors or other sleep dysfunctions.
How to prevent night terrors:
- Do not allow your child to be exposed to stimulants, such as watching repulsive movies, reading horror books etc, before they go to sleep. This can aggravate their emotions and they may frequently suffer from night terrors.
- Do not shout at your children or scold them before bedtime, develop and maintain a welcoming and warm atmosphere in the bedroom.
- Bathing with warm water before going to bed is an effective preventive measure against night terrors
- Listening to peaceful or soothing music at night or before bedtime ensures a balanced state of mind, acts as a motivating factor for sleep
- Do not keep scary toys in their bedrooms, and try to restrict the amount of time they spend play video games and computer games that involve aggressive fights and something that can scare them, especially before bedtime
- Paint their bedrooms with cool colors and use light colored floral curtains in their bedrooms
- Give them a massage before they go to bed. You can use herbal oils to massage them. This will help them relax and release stress at bedtime. Children play a lot throughout the day, and this can cause stress, which sometimes trigger night terrors.
- Ensure that your children are not overloaded with activities during the day, and that they get sufficient sleep at night (at least 6 to 9 hours, depending on the person’s daily routine and sleeping needs). Studying overnight is a practice that comes with many disadvantages, of which is sleeping disorders are the most commonly seen ill-effects.
- Give them food at least 2 hours before they go to bed. This will facilitate proper digestion of the food, and will help develop and maintain a good health, which in turn contributes to a healthy state of mind.
- Do not give them heavy food or milkshakes before they go to sleep and avoid giving them carbonated drinks, chocolates, etc at bedtime
- Do not play loud radio, television or any other kind of music while your child is sleeping. Keep your child’s room safe and away from such disturbances.
- Read a pleasant storybook or tell your stories to your child that will ensure a happy or joyful state of mind before they go to sleep
- Prefer co-sleeping with your children if they tend to wake up from sleep frequently
- If your child wakes-up from the sleep suddenly, try to give him reassuring words and bring them back to reality calmly. Do not panic and scowl at them; this can worsen the condition.
- Meditation and mild exercises help keep you physically fit, and will help you in channelizing stress through a proper exhaust
- If your children experience night terrors frequently, do not allow them to play for a long time during the day. Reduce the burden of studies, and keep from overreacting if they perform low in academics; you must realize that every individual takes his own time to develop their knowledge and understanding about things and life.
All the above tips work for adults too, and if you’re prone to night terrors, you need to take proper steps to hep you eliminate the root causes of sleep disorders, and thus prevent night terrors.