Night terrors are not the same as nightmares

Night terrors and nightmares are different

I recently had a client ask me about Night Terrors so I wanted to share some information about this topic with you.

Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur within REM sleep (dreaming state). Children can then wake from their dream upset and distressed after having a nightmare.

Night terrors occur during partial awakening from the deepest phase of Non REM sleep (non dreaming state). During a Night Terror, children are asleep, although they can look like they are awake. They can look like they are in a panic, their eyes can be open, and they can often move and talk or scream. Our first thought is to try and comfort them, however this doesn’t work as they are actually asleep and won’t respond.

Lack of sleep can cause night terror in some children.  Night terrors tend to happen during the first few hours of sleep when your child is sleeping very deeply.

What to do when a night terror occurs

  • Avoid waking your child as this causes confusion and disorientation
  • Let the episode run its course. If you leave them alone and asleep the night terror will be over quicker. Although this can be a bit distressing to watch, your child is not suffering
  • Keep them safe from hitting or bumping into anything
  • Wait till the child stops walking or thrashing around. If they got out of bed guide them back to bed.
  • Do not wake them after a night terror
  • Don’t question them in the morning or make them feel strange or different. They won’t remember anything as they were deeply asleep during the Night Terror

Tips to prevent night terrors

  • Make sure your child gets sufficient sleep
  • Consider an earlier bedtime
  • Restart a daily nap if it was stopped for no reason
  • Make sure that your child’s daily routine and sleep routine are regular and consistent


If you have concerns that your child is not getting enough sleep or you need help sorting out an appropriate nap schedule for their age please get in touch using the contact form below, email or call me on +61 426 876 626.