Some common night time terrors questions answered:
What causes Night terrors in my child?:
Taken that the brain is growing and developing from day dot till we are in our mid twenties (and even after then), the development at (generally) around age 4-8 and up to 12 causes what are popularly known as Night Terrors (source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_terrors). Some children will develop serious side effects needing the help of a psychiatrist or possibly a neurosurgeon (depending on the issue) a pediatrician or GP can asses which is likely to be needed. These sort of night terrors are caused by neurological and psychological changes during the brains development and often are not dangerous, but can be very scary. Seek medical advice if children do not sleep well over a long period, can describe vivid imagery memory of the event, sleepwalk into dangerous situations, or has memory problems after suffering them. Often the best thing to do is settle the youngster, get them back to sleep and keep to a good sleep-time routine.
What causes this “Old Granny Syndrome” and like “terrors”?:
This is when you wake up in sleep but are in paralyses, unable to move or are sluggish (feel like a old granny). Some people experience a shortness of breath, and uncontrollable fear. This is caused by us NOT waking up fully. There are 5 main stages of sleep, 30 odd transitive stages of consciousness, not including duel states. When you go to sleep you go through a stage called hypnogogic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypnogogic) stage, it is during this stage that you brain shuts down your motor functions. This stops you from thrashing around in your sleep. Its often, not always malfunctions in reaching or going through this state that cuase things like sleepwalking, sleep talking, etc. You can become conscious in this state (either in the process of going to sleep, or waking up) and can experience this very unpleasant syndrome. Breath control i.e. breathing slower or faster, can help you out of this state, unfortunately breath control often requires you not to be in a blind panic. Hallucinations , OBEE’s, visions can occur in this state.
Some tips on how to help prevent these:
1. Warm milk about 20 mins before bed.
2. Passionflower and camomile tea, can help give you a dreamless sleep (Don’t give to minors without GP consent, dosage level varies)
3. Good repetitive sleep time routine (works very well for youngsters, but still works for adults).
4. Some evidence that a nightly affirmation of some kind, be is secular or religious can help if the wording is positive.
5. White noise may help, if you can sleep with it on.
6. No alcohol in last 1-2 hours before bed and plenty (like 600 ml) of water before sleep
Some medications, especially psychoactive ones, EFEXOR, lithium, sleep medications, even antihistamines etc. can change dream content and cause night terrors, consult GP, psychiatrist, nerochemist etc for more info, unlikely to be easily dealt with if you need the medication to live a relatively normal life.
There are more complex answers that involve things that neroscientists and psychologists study, but these are beyond my scope of knowledge.