All of a sudden, your child sits in an upright position during night. Nothing will sooth it, it mumbles or even screams with eyes wide open – but it is not completely awake. The so-called pavor nocturnus is a sleep disturbance. Your child is in some kind of grey area and is stuck between sleep and wakefulness. It is not perceiving your presence and often won’t react.
With children, pavor nocturnus is happening very frequent, but don’t worry, as frightening as it might look it still is harmless. Nonetheless it might lead to sleeping problems. Especially concerned are children at the age from two to six years. Attacks of pavor nocturnus occur in the first third of the night, most of the time one to four hours after falling asleep. The duration of an attack varies between two minutes and about 40 minutes. When the attack passed your child will go back to sleep without remembering the attack.
Most of the time, pavor nocturnus is starting with whimpering or wheezing, often accompanied by heavy crying and screaming. A pronounced restlessness, intensive sweating and disorientation follow. The child shows all signs of intense fear. Children concerned often suffer under enuresis (bed-wetting). During this phase, most children don’t allow anyone to touch them nor do parents succeed in calming them down. The pavor nocturnus stops as abruptly as it started. The child relaxes and falls asleep again. Your child won’t remember it the next morning. The frequency of the attacks differs – a couple of times per week, greater intervals or just once at all, everything is possible.
Pavor nocturnus vs nightmare
Unlike with a pavor nocturnus your child will actually wake up when having a nightmare. Furthermore, it is able to remember the nightmare, it will talk about it and your presence will comfort your child. The easiest way to differ between a pavor nocturnus and a nightmare is to determine who is more disturbed the next morning. Is your child churned up inside it had a bad dream. When you are more disturbed than your child it probably suffered under a pavor nocturnus.
Actually, there are no real counter measures since the real cause of a pavor nocturnus is yet unknown. Possible reasons might be irregular sleeping routine or lack of sleep, a stress factor during daytime or fatigue. In case the attacks happen frequently it is advisable to seek medical advice.
Helpful to parents
Try to calm down your child even if it is not reacting resp. when you are rejected. It is important to know that the phenomena of this situation are harmless and nothing will happen to your child. Talk simpel sentences in a soothing voice and position yourself between your child and some eventual harmfully things. Often, children suffering under pavor nocturnus involuntarily stumble out of bed. As long as there is no risk of hurting itself don’t try to wake your child up. When you are trying to hold your child it will become wilder.
For your peace of mind: pavor nocturnus is affecting parents much longer than the child.
Image source: @fotolia
This post is also available in / Diesen Beitrag gibt es auch in: German
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