You may be concerned your child is having night terrors, want to know what they are and what you can do to prevent them. Read our guide to night terrors for the answers to your questions…..
Sleep-walking, sleep-talking, night terrors and nightmares are all behaviours that happen at night. They are very common in preschool children, with more than 80 per cent experiencing what are known as parasomnias. Most of these disturbances are usually manifestations of a maturing neurological system or simply just run in your family.
Night terrors usually occur in the first few hours of the night, during deep non-rapid-eye-movement (NREM) sleep. A young child experiencing a night terror appears to ‘wake up’ suddenly out of a deep sleep often with a wide-eyed, frightened expression, and sometimes screaming loudly. She may even get out of bed and run around in a state of seemingly inconsolable anxiety. Ironically, while night terrors may leave parents feeling anxious, they do not disturb the child. Although your child may look terrified, she is usually totally unaware of what is happening as she is in a deep sleep.
Night terrors rarely lasts longer than ten minutes, and your best response is simply to keep your child safe, wait until it passes, then guide her back to bed. Do not attempt to wake her or to offer comfort or reassurance as she is more likely to be upset if woken.
Causes and prevention of night terrors:
This is the most common trigger. A sleep-deprived child has a greater need for very deep sleep when they occur. Ensure your child is having the right amount of sleep for his age.
If your child regularly experiences night terrors, rousing her from her deep sleep in the early part of the night may prevent it. If you keep a sleep diary, you can monitor when they typically occur and then aim to rouse her 30 minutes before her usual earliest night terror. Repeat this every night for 7 consecutive nights. Week two stir your child every night for 6 nights. Week three miss out 2 nights and stir for 5 consecutive nights. Repeat this pattern until you no longer need to stir your child.
Irregular sleep schedule.
Regular daytime naps and consistent bed- and wake-up times will help to stabilize your child’s sleep pattern.
Avoid food and drink containing caffeine and/or sugar as both can disturb your child’s sleep.
Stressful events and illness
Both can lead to disturbed sleep and it is this lack of sleep that acts as a trigger for the night terror.
Night terrors run in families
If there is a family history of night terrors, your child has an 80–90 per cent chance of experiencing them.