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Night terror.

There is nothing more comforting than seeing your child safely tucked in bed sleeping peacefully, but then, moments later, nothing more frightening than witnessing the blank stare of a child who does not recognize you. Night terror, also known as sleep terror, is just this type of sleep disturbance that can terrify parents enough to contact their pediatrician at once. According to one study, night terror afflicts approximately 6.2% of children between the ages of six to twelve years and is even more common in young children.

Symptoms can surface as early as 18 months and are highly prevalent in very young children, with a marked decrease toward adolescence. "Night terrors usually occur about two hours after a child falls asleep, when the first cycle of deep sleep has suddenly come to an end and light waking has not fully occurred," says Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow, pediatric psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor.

A blood curdling scream may signal the onset of night terror with a host of symptoms following that clearly define the disorder: thrashing, rapid heartbeat, profuse perspiring, shouting, babbling, agitation, wild running, a blank stare, tense facial features and an expression resembling one possessed.

Rest assured that your child is not having a seizure and does not have a medical condition. Night terrors do occur in perfectly healthy children. Often they are accompanied by sleepwalking and talking and can last as long as 15 minutes.

While anxiety may be at the base of your child's night terror, there is much you can do to help prevent axiety, and therefore ngith terrors. Create leisurely time whenever possible to engage in fun activities such as swimming and splashing in a pool. Indoors or outdoors, whether pushing a kickboard or bouncing a beach ball. spend time together and have fun. Water is purifying and cleansing with restorative calming properties It will do both of you good.

Night terror episodes may occur when children are overtired. Try giving him a nap or getting him to bed earlier with a consistent time schedule at nighttime for sleep. According to Dr. Sparrow, sleep expert and author of Sleep The Brazelton Way, "The best protection against night terrors may actually be adequate sleep at naptime and at night."

Your child may be going through difficult times, so try putting time aside to find out if all is going well in his life. You may want to mention to the school psychologist and teacher that your child is experiencing night terror so that they too can keep a watchful eye on your child in the classroom and on the playground.

Dr. Sparrow cautions parents not to grill your child about the night terror afterward. Children don't remember.

Dr. Sparrow offers this expert advice:

* Don't try to awaken the child.

* Leave him in his crib, or if he has climbed out, lead him back to bed if he will let you.

* Be sure he is safe.

* Don't talk about it a lot during the day. He cannot control himself, and dwelling on these episodes will endanger his feelings about himself.

* Reduce stresses on him during the day, as he may be going through a vulnerable time.

A dose of humor can have far reaching affects and is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Try reading your child a funny story or two where both of you can laugh. If he is very young, give him a cuddly animal to hold onto, or a favorite blanket that he can hug. A talisman such as a Chinese foo dog may work better for an older child. Place it where he can see it knowing that it is guarding and protecting him all night long, or perhaps hang a Native-American dream catcher in his room. Sometimes just being reassured can make all the difference.

Lynn Masters-Zaleski, MA, earned her masters in education from Iona College. Her principal interest is tension-discharge disorder, impulse ridden personality. She is a freelance writer Her articles have appeared in Hudson Valley Magazine, Town and Country Travel, and County Kids.
Prevalence of Tooth
Decay in Children

Age            1985-1994     1999-2004

2-5 *             24%           28%
6-11 *            50%           51
12-15 **          57%           51%
16-19 **          78%           67%

* decay in primary (baby) teeth

** decay in secondary (adult) teeth

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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Author:Masters-Zaleski, Lynn
Publication:Pediatrics for Parents
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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