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When your child wakes you up in the middle of the night, crying over a bad dream, it is important to know if the child is having nightmares or night terrors. Here are the differences between the two, courtesy of the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Nightmares in children are basically scary dreams. Most children have them from time to time. The child may wake up and turn to a parent or caregiver for comfort. Usually, he or she will be able to say what happened in the dream and why it was scary. The child may then have trouble going back to sleep and may have the same dream again on other nights.
Night terrors in children, on the other hand, are a different kind of scary dream. Night terrors happen during deep sleep and a child having a night terror will often wake up screaming. He or she may be sweating and breathing fast. The child's pupils may look larger than normal. At this point, the child may still be asleep, but with open eyes. He or she will be confused and might not answer when asked what's wrong. The child may be difficult to wake. When the child wakes, he or she usually won't remember what happened.