3 Ways to Tell Apart Nightmares & Night Terrors

3 Ways to Tell Apart Nightmares & Night Terrors


Few things are as peaceful as the image of a soundly sleeping child. But unfortunately, sleep doesn't come easy to every kid, and many children deal with intense, recurring nightmares or even night terrors. But how can you tell the difference between a plain ol' bad dream and a full-blown night terror? At 5 Little Monkeys, we're proud to offer a kid's sleep system that's helped countless kids get healthy, restful sleep, and we'd like to offer a few tips on differentiating between nightmares and night terrors.

The Difference Between a Nightmare and a Night Terror

Nightmares and night terrors are both frightening dream experiences that can disturb and disrupt sleep. But while they're similar in nature, they're not the same thing. Understanding the difference between nightmares and night terrors can help you get a better understanding of your child's sleep patterns and needs – so here are three ways to tell the difference between a nightmare and a night terror:

  • Timing: Because nightmares and night terrors happen during different phases of sleep, they often occur at different times of night. Nightmares happen during REM sleep, which occur later in the sleep cycle, while night terrors occur earlier on during non-REM sleep. While it's not a hard and fast rule, night terrors usually occur earlier in the night, while nightmares occur later.
  • Memory: Another result of these differing sleep phases is that children remember the experiences differently. Kids can often recall nightmares in vivid detail when they wake up, but will usually have no memory of a night terror whatsoever.
  • Age: Anyone can have a nightmare or a night terror, but terrors are much more common in children. If the problem meets the above descriptors and it's happening while your child is around the ages of 4-8, chances are it's a night terror.

Order the Best Kids Mattress Online

We hope this guide makes it easier to distinguish between nightmares and night terrors, and if this starts to be a persistent problem for your child, it may be worth a visit to your pediatrician. But good sleep hygiene is important whether your child gets nightmares or not, and their mattress is an important part of healthy sleep. Want to see the difference that a high-quality, purpose-built mattress can make on your child's sleep? Take the first step: order our children's mattress today and try it risk-free for the first 100 nights. We can't wait to help you and your child experience the power of healthy, restful sleep!