THE CORRECT ANSWER IS: B) Night Terrors
Dear Perplexed Parent:
Judging from the description you have given, your daughter is not experiencing nightmares at all. Rather, her symptoms coincide very neatly with what are known as “confusional arousals.”
Confusional arousals occur when your child gets stuck, as it were, between sleeping and waking. These arousals almost always occur during the first third of the night, during the transition from deep sleep (non-dreaming) to light sleep or to a brief period of awakening. Normally this transition between sleep stages is made without event. But in children (11 years and younger) the mechanism that controls the sleep stages often is not fully developed. The result is that a child can partially arouse - hence the “awake”characteristics of the behavior you describe - yet the child also can be, at the same time, deeply asleep. If you had an EEG (a device that measures brain activity) attached to your child during one of these confusional arousals, the EEG would reflect both states at the same time - deep sleep and waking. The disorientation caused by this merging of states often causes the child to panic, and they typically do not remember the event once awakened.
Unlike nightmares, which are a reflection of psychological anxiety, confusional arousals are considered a relatively normal stage in your child’s sleep development. The good news about confusional arousals is that they are entirely benign and usually are outgrown by age 11, so you can anticipate decreasing occurrence from this time forward. Also, leaving a light on in your daughter's bedroom will help eliminate confusion and decrease frequency of the events.