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Night terrors - What are they and how to prevent them?

Updated: May 7, 2021

Night terrors are most common in toddlers and in children up to around age 6, however babies as young as 6 months old can get them but that’s very rare.

They occur during the non-REM deep stage of sleep and usually 1 – 4 hours after your child has gone to sleep at night.

The difference between a night terror and a nightmare is your child won’t remember their night terror like they would remember a nightmare. A nightmare occurs during REM sleep which is the lighter stage of sleep which mostly occurs after midnight.

Signs your child is having a night terror are:

· They are screaming

· Sweating

· Thrashing around

· Heart is pounding and their chest may be heaving

· They appear anxious and frightened

· Their eyes may be open, but they are actually still asleep

What should I do?

· Go in to their room and make sure they are safe so they can’t hurt themselves.

· Don’t wake them up, if we wake them, they will be very disorientated & it could take them a long time to go back to sleep.

· The best thing we can do is to sit with them but don’t try to hold them and wait until the night terror is over.

Why do they happen?

· The most common reason for a night terror to occur is your child isn’t getting enough sleep and they are going to bed overtired.

· They may occur if your child has sleep apnoea.

· They can also occur when their routine is disrupted due to school holidays, on holiday or when relatives come to visit.

How Can I Prevent them?

· Ensure your child is getting enough sleep at night and during the day if they are under 2.5/3 years old.

· Try bringing their bedtime earlier, I recommend aiming for them to be asleep no later than 7/7.30pm for all children under 5.

· Keep a relaxing consistent bedtime routine

Most importantly try not to worry and stay calm when your child is having a night terror.

Hopefully these tips will help but if you are struggling with a routine appropriate for your child and/or they are waking frequently at night and keep having these night terrors, then please do reach out to me for help. I have the experience to help you. Click here for my 1:1 sleep packages.

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