Wake-up disorders typically in childhood

Parasomnia: These are events or behaviors that occur while asleep or out of sleep.

Wake-up disorders, parasomnias occur more frequently in childhood. Many children and parents will eventually experience a “night terror” or sleepwalking.

As a rule, the various awakening disorders occur preferentially in a certain age phase and disappear after some time by themselves. They can become worse when children have fever, are tired or under stress or stress.

Wake-up disorders are almost always harmless. A doctor or therapist is only needed if the following situations occur.

  • when the nocturnal behavior of the child is particularly aggressive and there is an increased risk of injury;
  • when the event occurs almost every night for an extended period of time;
  • if the child suffers from marked daytime fatigue;
  • when other family members are overly impaired.
  • When the whole family and social situation becomes unstable.

Parasomnia, such as talking in the sleep, nightmares or teeth grinding often pass by themselves after some time, otherwise help from outside is also a good support. In case of waking up disturbances, such as sleepwalking, the children should be woken up and brought to bed again and again, as well as protective measures such as shutting off the entrance doors, etc. is mandatory here.


In the case of sleep drunkenness – also called partial or partial awakening – the child is in a kind of transition state between sleeping and waking. The sleeping child performs actions that seem to be awake, but it can not remember anything later.

Nightmares and sleepwalking

Sleep drunkenness manifests itself mostly through screaming and wild movements arising out of sleep. Often the child sits up in bed or even gets up. It gives the impression of being awake, but seems very confused and excited. Attempts to console, calm or lie down the child are decided, often aggressively rejected. Parents in this situation can not really “pervade” their child – they can just wait for it to calm down by themselves and make sure it does not hurt. This condition can last up to half an hour. Then the child wakes up briefly, then immediately fall asleep again. Drowsiness usually occurs in infants and young children, occasionally in older children. It is harmless and does not require treatment.

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The Pavor nocturnus: harmless fright

Pavor nocturnus, called night terrorium or anxiety quack, is one of the most common childhood recovery disorders. It is very similar to sleep drunkenness, but acts more dramatic in its course and sometimes leaves parents in a panic. Panic cry, loud crying, utter despair the child is bathed in sweat, breathing hard and with a racing pulse in his cot Any attempt to soothe it by hugging it, talking or stroking it well will be unsuccessful or exciting even on and then, after a few minutes, suddenly everything is over. The horror gives way and it falls asleep immediately. The next morning, the child can not remember anything and it should not be remembered.

The Pavor nocturnus occurs most often between the ages of two and six years, usually in the first third of the night. He is harmless and has nothing to do with nightmares; it does not harm your child physically or mentally. As a parent, we can only wait until the spook is over, and make sure that your child does not hurt.

Sleepwalking is dangerous

Sleepwalking can occur in combination with the Pavor nocturnus or alone. Why? There are only assumptions about that. Genetic predisposition to sleepwalking, feverish illnesses, mental stress, flight or noise are some of the factors that are considered here.

Sleepwalking is usually harmless; however, at night excursions can lurk at risk of accidents.

If your child is prone to sleepwalking, make sure that all windows, apartment and balcony doors are well locked. Scissors, knives, light are nothing for small children and sleepwalkers. It may also be useful to attach a small bell to the nursery door handle that will alert you at night when your child is sleepwalking. If you notice sleepwalking, for safety reasons you should try to return your child to his bed.

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Please do not: Tell your child about the sleepwalking of the night the next day – this may trigger additional fears. Sleepwalking is most common between the ages of four and eight years, often in children who have spoken in their sleep at a younger age. About 15 percent of all 5- to 12-year-old children sleepwalk once; five percent more often. In most cases, sleepwalking diminishes with age and completely disappears until puberty. If your child sleepwalks regularly, it is advisable to have the pediatrician’s practice clarify that it is really about sleepwalking and not a seizure disorder.

Nightmares and sleepwalking


Nightmares are often experienced as terrible and threatening. Anyone who has nightmares as an adult knows how oppressive such a dream can last for days afterwards. It’s the same for a child. When it wakes up after a nightmare, it can usually still remember very vividly and in detail the happenings. It is scared, needs comfort and seeks the care and protection of the parents. Until about 6 years of age, when a child experiences dreams as reality, the fear of the dream can persist long after awakening. Most children remember the nightmare for days or even weeks, yes, there are adults who still remember those dreams.

What are sleep therapists doing in this case?

Sleep coaches have the experience that it can be helpful to have children paint the characters from their dreams the next day, making them “tangible”. The children should then consider a new, good outcome for the experience in the dream.

Of the parasomnias, nightmares are those most likely to be associated with acute or chronic stress. For example, the causes of a nightmare can often be found in very intense or frightening impressions of the day that overwhelm the child. This also includes excessive, or not child-friendly TV and PC consumption. Excessive demands due to school pressure and bullying can also play a role here.

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To prevent nightmares helps a balanced atmosphere, time for conversation, eating together with time for a mindful approach. Time to talk about the daytime experiences, stressful events should be discussed during the day not just before going to bed. In the last two hours before falling asleep television should be taboo.

Talk in your sleep

Children who sleep are very common. Children who often talk in their sleep tend to sleepwalk more than others, according to recent studies, as they get older.

Speaking while sleeping is harmless, even if it is related to fever or stress. A treatment is basically not necessary. However, if you suspect stress for a long time at school or through friends as a cause, they should be active here.

Gnashing of teeth

Nocturnal teeth grinding sounds horrible. Constant or frequent teeth grinding can over-wear the teeth, which can be prevented by so-called “bite splints”. Sometimes the teeth grinding is also an indication of malpositions in the teeth. Therefore, you should discuss the problem with regular occurrence in any case with a dentist and Kieferorthopäden.

Since teeth grinding in stress situations usually increases, relaxation therapy or yoga and meditation may be advisable.