Iowa Sleep Blog

Halloween Nightmares and Night Terrors

Friday, October 31, 2014

How to Deal with Halloween Night Mares and Night Terrors

While Halloween is a favorite holiday amongst children of all ages, it can often be a stressful time for parents. During Halloween season, children can be exposed to scary and sometimes disturbing costumes, causing them to become scared or alarmed. In some cases, this fear can be brought out while a child is sleeping, causing a parasomnia – most commonly, a nightmare or night terror. 

Nightmares vs. Night Terrors- What’s the Difference?

Parasomnias are moments of disorientated arousal during sleep. You are neither awake nor asleep, but caught somewhere in-between. While both parasominas can be alarming to your child, they are very different. Nightmares are scary dreams that seem very real to children. They occur during the sleep stage where the brain is processing information from the day. These dreams can cause them to wake up and be afraid to fall back asleep.

Night terrors are disturbances during sleep which may cause a child to suddenly bolt up in bed and thrash around uncontrollably. Because they are caught between being awake and asleep, they will struggle to respond to anything you do to comfort them. Researchers believe these mysteriously occur when there is a glitch in the transition between sleep stages, affecting six percent of children under eight.

Tips for dealing with nightmares

1. Provide reassurance. Physical comfort is one of the best things you can provide your child after they experience a nightmare. Let them know you are there for them by hugging them or rubbing their back.

2. Discuss. If your child is experiencing frequent nightmares, talk about them during the day to find themes or patterns in why the dreams could be occurring.

3. Control the situation. Some children need the comfort of knowing they are in control of their dreams. Consider making a dream catcher, or have them draw out a picture of their dream and then throw it away.

Night terrors – what you can do

1. Wait it out. Unless your child is in danger of hurting themselves by falling off a bed or walk into something, don’t try to touch them. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic stress to not wake the child as it can do more harm to the child than good. Episodes will subside on their own.

2. Stay calm. While witnessing an episode can be stressful as a parent, your child will have no memory of the incident when they wake up. Showing your concern in most cases scares them more than and actual episode.

3. Watch your child’s stress levels. Going through difficult environmental changes and new experiences that put stress on a child could contribute to night terrors.

Our team at Iowa Sleep hopes these tips are helpful to you and your family. Happy Halloween!