One of the symptoms of night terrors is to shout out or scream in distress. Picture: Pexels

Some children suffer from night terrors at preschool age, or even early on during school.

Suddenly, they wake up and scream. Sometimes they swing their arms around, making it difficult or even impossible for parents to calm them down.

During a night terror, a child might:

  • suddenly sit upright in bed
  • shout out or scream in distress
  • have faster breathing and a quicker heartbeat
  • be sweating
  • thrash around
  • act upset and scared

The children are also not responsive even though their eyes are open — and the children even talk to themselves in some cases.

“Parents should quietly talk to their children and assure them that they are safe and make sure that they do not injure themselves,” said Ulrich Fegeler from the German Pediatrician's Association.

“Waking up a child in this phase doesn't make much sense since they would have no orientation or be bewildered, and it would be difficult for them to fall back to sleep,” said Fegeler. 

In this condition, the child is neither really awake nor asleep. The night terror - called Pavor nocturnus - lasts only between five and 15 minutes. The affected child will fall back to sleep on their own.

Between three to six percent of children experience night terror. They usually occur one to four hours after falling asleep - in the non-REM stages of sleep. As opposed to nightmares, the child cannot remember anything when they wake up from a night terror. This sleeping disorder isn't connected with psychological problems and has no lasting effect.

The number of instances can be decreased through a regular bed time, less stress and bed-time rituals. If the night-time attacks occur often, parents should discuss it with their pediatrician.