What are nightmares?
Nightmares are scary dreams. Most children have them from time to time. Most nightmares happen very late in the sleep period (usually between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m.). Your child may wake up and come to you for comfort. Usually, he or she will be able to tell you what happened in the dream and why it was scary. Your child may have trouble going back to sleep. Your child might have the same dream again on other nights.
What are night terrors?
Some children have a different kind of scary dream called a "night terror." Night terrors happen during deep sleep (usually between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.). A child having a night terror will often wake up screaming. He or she may be sweating and breathing fast. Your child's pupils (the black center of the eye) may look larger than normal. At this point, your child may still be asleep, with open eyes. He or she will be confused and might not answer when you ask what's wrong. Your child may be difficult to wake. When your child wakes, he or she usually won't remember what happened. Children who have night terrors may also sleepwalk.
Will my child keep having nightmares or night terrors?
Nightmares and night terrors don't happen as much as children get older. Often, nightmares and night terrors stop completely when your child is a teenager. However, some people, especially people who have active imaginations and are creative, may keep having nightmares and night terrors when they are adults.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff