Night Terror or Nightmare? Part 1

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For parents that have little ones experiencing disturbing middle of the night wake ups, this is for you!  Read on to learn more about night terrors and nightmares, to help in differentiating which one your child may be experiencing.

 

Facts about Night Terrors:

  • They tend to start occurring at around 3 years of age and end around 8 years of age. They can start occurring as young as 15 months.
  • Night terrors are more prevalent in boys than girls, and run in the family.
  • Children that experience night terrors have no recollection of the incident because they are in fact asleep when the night terror occurs. 
  • Night terrors tend to occur within the first few hours of the night
  • Common symptoms are as follows: waking with a bloodcurdling scream, eyes wide open, thrashing around, appear upset/scared, elevated heart rate, and sweating. 
  • When a child is having a night terror, they will likely not be able to be calmed down by mom/dad, or other caregiver.

 

It’s Most Likely a Nightmare when:

  • Your child is able to recall in the morning that they woke up in the middle of the night scared and upset. 
  • Your child is able to be easily calmed down upon waking in the middle of the night.
  • If your child is under 3 years of age, and doesn’t fit the criteria for a night terror

 

In my next blog post I’ll be discussing ways you can manage both night terrors and nightmares, so stay tuned!! :)

What’s so important about having my child on a schedule?

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Over the weekend I was chatting with a mom I had just met.  During our conversation we got to talking about child sleep, which isn’t too uncommon amongst moms!  I shared with her about my journey into pediatric sleep consulting, and she asked me “is it really important to have my children on a schedule?”  You might be able to guess what my answer was...but if you’re not sure, it was yes!  

 

I explained to her how much children thrive off of routine and structure, and not just when it comes to sleep.  When children know what to expect from their day, it gives them a sense of security and confidence.  Not only that, but a solid schedule plays a big role in the healthy foundation of sleep.

 

Structure throughout the day helps children know when sleep is coming.  For example if you feed your 18 month old lunch some days before her nap and other days after her nap she won’t know what to expect next.  Whereas if you feed her lunch every day before her nap, she will come to learn that after she eats lunch she takes a nap.  Think of structure in your child’s day as a way to cue them for sleep when it comes time for a nap or bedtime.  

 

I would tell you the most important piece of having a structured schedule for your child, especially if they are still napping is that there are certain times when biologically children need to sleep.  These times are controlled by the body’s circadian rhythms, which is an intricate internal clock cueing the body for when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake.  If your child isn’t on a schedule, sure they might nap during the day...but is that nap actually restorative for their body?  Think of it this way, all children need food and there are certain types of food that are nutritious, and others that are not...healthy food vs. junk food.  Same goes for sleep, all children need sleep, but there are certain times of the day where it’s better for their body than others…healthy sleep vs. junk sleep.  


My goal is to help children and families become healthier in terms of sleep.  If you would like to learn more about creating a healthy sleep foundation for your child, and when biologically they should be waking in the morning, taking naps, and going to bed...check out my sleep packages and let’s work together to get your child less junk sleep and more healthy sleep!