You have likely comforted your child after a nightmare. This isn't uncommon and something almost all children and parents will experience at some point.
However, if your child has ever had a night terror, their fear was likely extreme and inconsolable. Night terrors affect three to six percent of children between four and 12. Unfortunately, they are often just as disturbing for parents as children.
Night terrors are when the child partially wakes from sleeping, and begins to walk, mumble, thrash, panic, kick, cry, or scream. Parents can do a few things to help their children deal with and prevent night terrors. Keep reading to learn more.
Talk to Your Child and Reassure Them
Night terrors may be quite upsetting for parents. In fact, as a parent in this situation, you may feel helpless if you can't calm and comfort your child.
The best strategy for dealing with night terrors is to wait and ensure your child doesn't hurt themselves moving around. Most children will be able to settle down on their own and get back to sleep after just a few minutes.
Try not to wake your kids up during night terrors. Usually, this doesn't work, and if your child does wake up, they may be confused and disoriented. Also, waking your child may need even more time to calm down and fall back asleep.
Focus on Prevention
It's important to note that children who are stressed, sick, are overtired are more at risk of experiencing night terrors. An example is if a child is sleeping away from home, which is a stressor, not getting enough sleep making them overtired, or taking a new medicine. All these things can cause night terrors. Caffeine can cause night terrors for some children, so making sure they don't have this is essential.
Some children are genetically predisposed to night terrors. Around 80% of children who experience night terrors have someone in their family who did.
Keep a Regular Sleep and Bedtime Routine
Sometimes, toddlers wean from going to bed while having milk or being cuddled. This type of routine change can cause night terrors.
While night terrors are temporary, you need to ensure that their new bedtime routine is relaxing and consistent, regardless of what it is. Try certain quiet activities, such as reading a book or breathing exercises while in bed. This can help your child calm down and get ready to rest. If you don't have a consistent bedtime routine that is the same every night, it's a good idea to start one now.
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Give Your Child a Nap During the Day
If your child is sleep-deprived, it may lead to night terrors. To prevent this, you may want to give your child an earlier bedtime or let them take a nap during the day. You can also conduct a sleep hygiene check-up. This is a smart first step to take.
Does your child follow a regular sleep schedule? Do you think a nap would be beneficial during the day?
If you have a child transitioning away from naptime, then night terrors may be a short-term nighttime issue that will pass once they become rested and get more sleep at night.
The key to successfully eliminating nap time without causing night terrors is to make their bedtime earlier. Make sure that the sleeping area is consistent, comfortable, and quiet. Making sure your child gets enough sleep is essential when it comes to preventing night terrors.
Keep Your Child's Bedroom Safe
Some night terrors can cause your child to sleepwalk, kick, and move around. Because of this, you must take steps to ensure they don't get injured.
This includes closing and locking all the exterior doors and windows at night. You may also want to lock interior doors and put bells or alarms on them to alert you if your child is up. You need to block stairways and doors with a gate and move wires, cords, and other items that may be a tripping hazard. Put fragile and sharp objects out of reach.
Along with creating a safe space for your child, make sure their bedroom is calming and soothing. This may include adding a nightlight or white noise, depending on your child's response.
Related: Calming Songs to Sing to Your Baby
Speak with Your Child's Healthcare Provider
The occasional night terror isn't a real cause for concern. However, if your child begins to have them more frequently, you may need to speak to their doctor. Some of the other times talking to your child's doctor about night terrors is a good idea include:
- Daytime issues occur such as excessive tiredness or problems functioning
- Terrors disrupt the sleep of others in the home
- Injuries or safety concerns arise
- Continue into adulthood
Your doctor may have additional information and treatment options to help in these situations.
Night terrors aren't uncommon in toddlers and children. While this is true, they can be scary and concerning for parents. While there is no way to prevent them completely, the tips and information here will help your child in these situations.
It's also smart to know when talking to your child's doctor about night terrors is a smart move. This will help you know what options you have to help your child and prevent more of the night terrors in the future.
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