Sleepwalking and Night Terrors
Sleepwalking and night terrors are parasomnias. People afflicted with sleepwalking and night terrors appear to rise out of what appears to be deep sleep and act as if they are awake. They, typically, won't respond to other people. They also won't remember what transpired in the night on the following day.
Sleepwalking seems to run in families. It is often associated with sleep deprivation. Night terrors and sleepwalking are more likely to occur in the beginning of the night. The victims pass back and forth rapidly between sleep and wakefulness.
Most cases of sleepwalking and night terrors begin in early childhood. They can continue into adulthood. They can begin as early as children are able to walk, but it mostly occurs between the ages of four and eight. Usually, they disappear spontaneously after adolescence.
Night terrors are most frightening to the parents or others around the victims. Children with night terrors rise up out of a deep sleep seemingly truly terrified, often screaming with fright. Their eyes are open wide, as if seeing some horror that others cannot. Their hearts race, they may tremble, and they take short, shallow breaths.
About 3 percent of children experience night terrors. Night terrors occur most often in children between two and five years of age and usually disappear completely by age seven. The disorder also may appear late in life.
Night terrors also tend to run in families. Episodes are commonly triggered when children have a fever, and are occasionally associated with taking medications.
Causes for Sleepwalking or Night Terrors
Speak calmly and reassuringly to children. They may not seem to respond. But if you stay calm, you can slowly bring them out of their fright. Children usually calm down after 5 to 15 minutes and go back to sleep without ever really waking up.
Research suggests that 5-HTP improves sleep quality in children and results in a lower incidence of nighttime awakenings, night terrors, and other parasomnias. The dosage of 5-HTP for children is based on the child's weight: 4.5 mg per kilogram (2.2 pounds) per day. Consult your child's pediatrician before giving 5- HTP.
Before giving any medication, rule out any negative psychological stimuli for the behavior (such as scary images from TV, scary movies, or books). Also check for the iron levels to make sure there is no anemia involved.
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