Night Terrors In Young Children And What You Can Do.

What Are Night Terrors?

A night terror (or sleep terror) is when your child suddenly gets very agitated while in a state of deep sleep. Deep sleep is hard to wake up from.

If your child is having a night terror, she might look like she’s in a panic. Her heart might be racing, and she might be breathing fast and sweating.

She might also look like she’s awake – for example, her eyes might be open or she might be crying. She might even sit up or get out of bed and run around.

Is Your Child Awake During an Episode?

Your child is actually asleep during a night terror, so he won’t respond when you try to comfort him.

The episode happen suddenly and often start with a cry or scream. They usually settle down in 10-15 minutes, but they can last longer than this. They don’t usually happen more than once a night. Sometimes they happen every night and then go away for several weeks.

These Are Some Causes of Night Terrors.

Examples May Include:


-Fever, especially in children


-Lack of Sleep

-Noisy or Well Lit Sleeping Environment

-Overfull Bladder

-Spending The Night at A Unfamiliar Place. (Sleep Over or Vacation)

-Genetically Inherited.

-Headaches and Migraines

-Physical, Mental and Emotional Stress

Some Known Symptoms of Night Terrors.

-Screaming Hysterically and shouting

-Sitting upright in bed or sleepwalking

-Kicking, Punching, Shoving and Thrashing of limbs

-Heavy breathing, Heart Palpitations, and Excessive sweating

-Dilated pupils and increased muscle tone

-Unable to “snap out of it”

-Disorientated and Confuse upon waking up

-The victim may appear awake but not responsive

-Aggressive and Hostile behaviour

-Unable to recall what happened after the episode

Some General Facts About Night Terrors

  • While night terrors are more common in young children, but they can happen at any age to anyone.
  • The condition will stop without any medical intervention or drugs.
  • Research has shown that there may be a genetic component with regards to night terrors.
  • There are easy techniques which can lessen the impact of night terrors.
  • Sleepwalking often accompanies night terrors.
  • Unlike nightmares which occur towards the end of a night’s sleep, night terrors occur during the initial first few hours of sleep.

What to Do If Your Child Suffers from Night Terror

Allow your child some time to calm down. Don’t attempt to intervene or interact with them, unless there is immediate harm. Do note that it is disheartening to witness Night terrors can be frightening to witness, but they don’t harm your child. Attempting to wake your child up while they having an episode is not recommended. They may be more agitated as they might not be aware of the surroundings. This includes identifying you as a parent. It is safe to wake your child up after the episode ended. A warm drink and assurance of comfort through hugging are good. Do ensure that your child is wide awake before putting them to bed again. This may help to prevent the episode from reoccurring within the same period of time. You should also encourage your them to use the toilet before settling them to bed again. While your child has no recollection over what happened, it’s good to have a chat with your child about it. Its beneficial as parents to find out if there is anything worrying them or triggering them. Be wary to not heighten the worry or anxiety while having the conversation with your child. Try to also establish a relaxing bedtime routine for your child. Waking your child up before an episode may help to break the night terrors episodes’ cycle. This may especially help if the night terrors happened at a specific time during his/her sleep. Wake your child 15 minutes before the anticipated time of the episode every night for 7 days. This sleep disruption is enough to stop the episodes from occurring, without affecting sleep quality.

When Should You See Your Family Doctor

Most children grow out of night terrors. But talk to your Family Doctor if they’re occurring several times a night and most nights. Your Family Doctor will be able to identify if there is more to it than only night terrors.

For example, your child may have a swollen tonsil which is affecting his/her sleep. Some children may need a further referral to a Specialist to help them with the Night Terrors.

Bonus 12 Tips On Handling Children with Night Terrors.

  1. Keep yourself calm.
  2. Try to minimize the stress in your child’s life.
  3. Cut down or eliminate TV completely.
  4. Be sure your child is not overly tired during the day.
  5. Have a comfortable bedtime Routine.
  6. Be mindful that fever can result in a night terror episode.
  7. Ensure that your child does not accidentally awaken.
  8. Do not try to wake your child up.
  9. Keep the room cool and do not let your child get overheated.
  10. If your child’s tonsil is swollen due to cold and allergies, do note that it might be difficult for the child to breathe.
  11. Try putting the child’s feet in COOL water (AVOID ICE WATER OR COLD WATER ).
  12. You can try to wake your child up 15 mins prior to when the night terrors episode usually occurs.

In Conclusion.

-While it is hard to watch your child suffering from night terror episodes, it is also comforting to remember that it is not a permanent condition.

-Knowing some CAUSES of Night Terrors may provide added security in preventing the episodes from triggering.

-To be able to identify some known symptoms of night terrors and get further help from a doctor if needed.

-Understanding efforts which can prevent or minimize your child’s night terrors episodes.

-12 Tips On Handling Children with Night Terrors.

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