Nightmares are a cause of interrupted sleep for children and others. In children, they are often a reflection of the events of the day or of relationship issues and so on. They happen in the second half of the sleep, during the ”REM” stage, and are more frequent in girls. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and is a stage of lighter sleep. It is also called paradoxical sleep: although brain activity is very close to that of the day, it is very difficult to awake the persons that have entered the REM stage of their sleep. It has been said that the eyes are moving because they are following whatever happens in the dream, but this has not been completely proven. As a matter of fact even people who were born blind go through REM stages.
Night terrors are different. They are frequent and recurrent episodes of intense crying and fear during sleep: the child suddenly sits up and screams with her eyes opened, but she does not wake up and does not remember it the next morning. It happens during the deeper sleep, the non-REM sleep, in the first few hours after falling asleep (approximately an hour and a half after falling asleep). Most episodes last only a few minutes, but they may last longer before the child returns to normal relaxed sleep.
It occurs more often in boys, between age 3 and 5, when their central nervous system is still immature. Approximately 1% to 6% of children experience night terrors. The disorder usually resolves during adolescence. Less than 1% of adults will experience a night terror episode within their lifetime
Night terrors belong to the same category as sleepwalking and bed-wetting, the ‘’parasomnias’’ (those are sleep disorders with abnormal movements, emotions, etc. They usually happen during the transition from non REM to REM sleep). We are not sure what causes them but all of the following factors may be involved: stressful events, fever, sleep deprivation and overtired child, medications that have an action or side-effects on the brain.
Night terrors have been known since ancient times, although it was impossible to differentiate them from nightmares, until rapid eye movement was discovered last century.
Reassuring a parent that this disorder will almost always go away as the child grows is very important and part of the treatment. Creating a bedtime schedule that will increase the chances of restful sleep will help reducing the occurrence of night terrors.
You can treat night terrors and nightmares with homeopathy and I would recommend that you seek the expertise of a trained physician. Just to name a few, here are some commonly prescribed homeopathic medicines:
Stramonium 30C : the child is afraid of the dark and have nightmares. The sleep is of bad quality, often interrupted.
Kalium bromatum 30C: the child has nightmares and talks while sleeping.
When the situation is mixed, you can give five pellets of each 10 minutes before bed time and again if the child does wake up in the middle of the night.
–For night terrors:
Calcarea carbonica 30C, five pellets 10 minutes before bed time.