Nightmare vs. Night Terror: What's the difference?

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Nightmare vs. Night Terror: Nightmares are common in preschoolers, however about 5% of children experience night terrors. Wait, whats the difference?

src= content/uploads/2009/09/shutterstock 149381291.jpg Nightmare vs. Night Terror: Whats the difference?

Tell the difference from nightmare and night terror

Nightmare vs. Night Terror: What’s the difference?

Nightmares are common in preschoolers, however about 5 per cent of children experience night terrors. How can you tell the difference?


In a nightmare, your child may call out and be frightened but he is fully awake and responds to you. He will also remember the dream. Nightmares usually occurs during REM sleep, (typically in the second half of the night)

What to do:

Comfort and reassure your child. Help your child talk about the nightmare during the day. Read some stories to your child about getting over nightmares.

Night Terror

In night terrors, your child screams, flails his arms, but is actually asleep. He won’t remember the experience and he does not know you are there. It usually occurs during slow-wave sleep (earlier in the sleep cycle) and lasts for between 10-30 minutes.

According to Dr Jenny Tang, head and senior consultant of the respiratory medicine service at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Singapore, it is imperative to inculcate in children “good sleep routines and encourage them to nap to prevent night terrors. Most children tend to outgrow night terrors.”

What to do:

Stay near to make sure he does not hurt himself. Wait till the night terror pasts. Do not try to wake him up as it might prolong the episode. Soothing him will make no difference as he does not know you are there.

A night terror can be triggered if your child becomes overly-tired, thus be sure your child goes to bed at a regular time, and early enough to give him enough sleep.

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