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
· 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 sleep packages.