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A Night of Terrors
  Night Terrors, why your child gets them and how to prevent or treat it.
Added over 6 years ago.
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It is a terrifying experience for us parents when our little ones abruptly wake up screaming, terrified and confused. If this is something you have experienced with your own child they likely are going through night terrors. Though it is often difficult to get them to return to sleep, do not despair, this is a fairly common issue and is treatable.

Common Reasons for Night Terrors

Night terrors (A.K.A. confusional arousals) occur in older infants and young children when transitioning from one sleeping level into another. When we sleep our circadian rhythms (or sleep cycles), shift throughout the night from REM, which is the deep sleep state, to non-REM sleep. Night Terrors occur during stage 3 and 4 non-REM sleep, which is essentially a lighter sleeping state. There are a number of reason for why our children are effected by them. It can range from enlarged tonsils, adenoids or genetic predisposition, to inconsistent bedtimes or medications. In view of that, be sure to talk to your doctor or a pediatrician before using any of these treatments on your child.

What Are My Options?

Doctors Patrick McGrath, PhD, Jodi Mindell, PhD, V. Mark Durand, PhD all found a few ways to either eliminate completely or manage Sleep Terrors. One way is a regular bedtime with little to no lighting in their room. By this, they get used to a timely schedule and no interruptions from lights. Another way is to have a cool down period before bed, so there is not too much stimulation or arousal. Simply because of the extra fatigue from anything like tv, music, lights, or any form of excitement. By limiting these activities, they should relax faster and fall asleep more quickly. There are some specific soothing methods online at SheKnows, by Melisa Chapman. If all else fails, studies by OC, PHD, Patrick J. McGrath have shown that surgery and medications can reduce symptoms or solve the issue altogether, but surgery should be used as a last resort.

What Helps My Daughter

My daughter is a typical happy 2-year-old that wants to play night and day, but her batteries eventually run out regardless if she wants them to or not. Sometimes while recharging, she would wake up crying and screaming. The standard soothing techniques that we all know occasionally did not work or even come close to calming her down. Just recently though, I discovered that, since she has an overactive metabolism, she is hungrier than normal and more often. So, even going to bed shortly after dinner, she will get hunger pains during sleep. Thus causing discomfort leading into Night Terrors. With that being said, I now give her healthy crackers and some water before bed. She has now been Night Terror-free for 3 months now.

Night terrors can be stressful for both the parents and the child, but it is now possible cure or minimize the effects. The solution can be as simple as a snack before bedtime or a relaxation period prior to bedtime. Be sure to talk with your family physician before taking any course of action.

By: Benjamin Browning

Babywize Writer, Blogger, and Father

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