Although I have no known history of having a night terror, it is not something I'm unfamiliar with. Night terrors, which occur mostly with children, are a sudden awakening that involves screaming, confusion, trashing about and perspiring, and ends with the child returning to a deep sleep. These terrifying experiences are harmless and the child usually has no recollection of it. This sleeping disorder is important because of its intensity and its disturbing impact on parents. Those who see their children experience night terrors need to know that the short episode is fairly harmless and their child will be okay.
A few of my younger siblings have had night terrors. They are nearly impossible to ignore, especially if it is severe. In one instance, my brother was in the hallway outside the bedrooms, banging on the walls and screaming the entire time. All that my helpless parents could do was watch and make sure he did not harm himself. After several experiences, my parents have learned not to overreact, and to ignore minor episodes. The one having the night terror always falls back to sleep (although never in the right place), and has no memory of the event.
Since my first witnessing of a night terror, I have wondered what causes them. Is it something the child ate the day before, or a food intolerance? Is something troubling the child, such as being bullied at school? I have read that adults can also experience night terrors, but why do children experience these most? My biggest question is: can children be calmed during an episode? Or is it uncontrollable by onlookers?
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