If your child awakens in the middle of the night shouting in sheer terror, they might be experiencing pavor nocturmus, commonly referred to as sleep terror disorder. Frequently, this is confused with nightmares, but there is a major difference, because the child often remembers exactly what caused their nightmare while they might not wake up at all throughout an episode of sleep terror disorder, and will not remember being awake.
Episodes of sleep terror disorder are prevalent in children between about three and eight years of age, although they can be experienced by older kids, as well as adults. The specific reason for sleep terror disorder is unknown, however, it is typically associateded with stress or lack of rest. During an episode, which can be frightening to the parents, normally the episode will last between ten and twenty minutes, after which the child will go back to sleep and have no memory of the event the next morning.
Figuring out the difference between sleep terror disorder and the child awakening during a bad dream should be simple enough, as the kid might have the ability to explain about monsters under the bed, and falling through space when they have a nightmare. While these frightening dreams happen during the REM sleep stage, the memory of the occasion is typically vivid when the child gets up. They will also be awake instantly after the dream, while being comforted by a parent.
Seldom will a child suffering from sleep terror disorder have any idea the next day of what terrified them awake. While a parent is holding the child throughout an episode, the child will continue to be asleep, entirely unaware they are having a problem. Regardless of repeated attempts by the parents to calm the child, they will not be consciously awake and will be incapable to talk about what triggered the fear.
If a child continues to suffer from sleep terror disorder, removing the environmental causes of the anxiety and seeing to it the child is getting appropriate sleep most evenings can really help decrease the number of sleep terror disorder episodes. In some serious and lasting cases, the physician might suggest sedatives to remove the tension, and help the child sleep throughout the night.
Parents, however, should not try to self-diagnose or medicate the child without speaking with a medical professional. There might be some concealed causes of anxiety to the child that the physician can detect and help eliminate. Usually, after the age of eight, the sleep terror disorder will vanish by itself.