Everyone in your house is sleeping peacefully. Suddenly, you wake up to the sound of screaming. You rush to your kid’s room, only to find him sitting up and sobbing. But your usual methods of comfort don’t seem to help. You try to talk with him, but he doesn’t seem to hear you. It’s almost as if he’s still asleep with his eyes open.
If this sounds familiar, your child could have night terrors. This sleep disturbance can be even more scary for parents than for kids. Even though your child seems terrified, he won’t remember a night terror in the morning — they’re happening when he’s in a deep sleep, so he never really wakes up.
There’s no cure for night terrors, but you can try to prevent them. They’re more likely to happen when your child is overtired, taking a new medication or in a new environment . So you can reduce them by keeping your child’s sleep as consistent as possible and by tracking his sleep to make sure he’s getting enough. Also, night terrors typically occur close to the same time each night. Once you find the pattern, if you gently wake him up right before that time, he’ll likely go back to sleep quietly, without having the terror. Do this for 3 to 4 nights in a row, the night terrors will often go away. Need help tracking his sleep? We've got your back. The Knit sleep system not only monitors your child’s sleep, but sleep experts review the data and provide specific recommendations about how to improve your child’s unique sleep needs.
No matter what’s causing them or how you choose to approach helping your child avoid them, night terrors will eventually disappear on their own. Most kids outgrow them by their teenage years. Until they do, the best you can do is keep your child safe during episodes. Try to make his room child-proof in case he falls out of bed or sleepwalks: pick up toys every night, put a gate on the stairs and keep his windows closed and locked. During a night terror, stay close, talk to him calmly and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself on the headboard or floor.
Finally, talk with your pediatrician if the night terrors are happening routinely or seem to be happening more often.
What Are Night Terrors?, KidsHealth.org
How Much Sleep Do Children Need?, WebMD, Feb 2016