Overcoming Night Terrors

January 30, 2015

Nighttime can be a difficult for babies and young children. Many children have difficulty falling asleep, and struggle to sleep through the night. For children who suffer from night terrors, the struggles for the parent and child are only heightened. Here are some suggestions to help overcome night terrors:

What are Night Terrors?

Night terrors are incidents in which the child may scream, thrash, sweat, and cry during the night. The central nervous system becomes over-aroused and reacts during sleep. It might appear that your child is awake, but they are actually still in a deep sleep. Night terrors occur during non-REM sleep, often about two to three hours after the child falls asleep. Night terrors can be extremely disturbing for parents because the child is often unresponsive and unaware of your presence, even as they appear to desperately need your help. They are dramatic and scary, but more so for the parent.

Who Suffers from Night Terrors?

According to a Day Nursery in Birmingham, one to six percent of children experience these sleep disturbances, with the trouble peaking between the ages of three and twelve. For children who suffer from these incidents, episodes may occur once or twice per month and last between five to forty-five minutes before the child settles back to a peaceful sleep.

What Should You Do During a Night Terror?

Even though your instinct may be to soothe and comfort your child, it is best to just let the night terror pass. Remind yourself that though it is disturbing to viewers, your child is asleep, does not know he is crying, and won’t remember the episode in the morning. Make sure your child is safe and doesn’t hurt himself by rolling off the bed or banging his head against the headboard.

Prevention

Because we do not know the precise cause of night terrors, there is no specific solution that can be recommended. However, preventative measures can be taken to reduce the likelihood, frequency, and intensity of night terrors.

Stress, illness, fatigue, medication changes, and unfamiliar sleeping environments can all increase the likelihood of night terrors. Reducing these stressors can help your child overcome night terrors. While some influencing factors like illness may be out of your control, you can target other potential causes. It is important that your child goes to bed at a routine time and does not stay up too late. Establish a relaxing and comforting bedtime routine which minimizes your child’s stress, perhaps by incorporating a pre-bed bath or reading soothing bedtime stories.

If none of these recommendations work, it is fortunate that most children grow out of night terrors over time. This information should help clarify the facts behind night terrors. In the rare case that night terrors occur with regularity, consult your pediatrician.

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