Night terrors in Toddlers | Healthcare

night terrors

Night terrors can be very upsetting for parents, who might feel helpless at not being able to comfort their child. Attempts usually don’t work with this one. And, kids who are awakened will likely be disoriented, confused, and may take longer to settle down to go back to sleep. Understanding night terrors can reduce your worry and help your toddler get their good night’s sleep. Here is some information you should know about night terrors in toddlers.

What is Night Terrors

night terrors in toddlers

A night terror or sleep terror is when your child suddenly gets very agitated while in the state of a deep sleep, which is hard to wake up from. This condition is normal in children aged 2-12 years. And, they’re most common between the ages of 2 and 4 years. It usually occurs in the early part of the night and continues for up to 15 minutes. 

A child who experiences night terrors may scream, shout, and run around in panic. Sometimes, their eyes will be open, but they’re not fully awake. They usually settle down in 10-15 minutes, but it can last longer than this. Sometimes it happens every night and then goes away for several weeks. However, this condition doesn’t usually happen more than once a night. 

Night terrors might seem scary to you, but they actually don’t hurt your child or cause any problem to their health. Normally, children don’t remember what scared them last night when they wake up.

Difference Between Night Terrors and Nightmares

night terrors in toddlers

Remember that night terrors are not similar to nightmares. Normally, children are usually awake and distressed after having a nightmare. On the other hand, they sleep through night terrors and don’t remember them when they wake up.

While night terrors happen when your child is sleeping very deeply, nightmares tend to appear when they are dreaming.

The Causes of Night Terrors

A common cause of night terrors is not having enough of good-quality sleep. Also, children are more likely to have night terrors if they’re unwell. Fever and certain medications can increase the possibility of night terrors to happen. On top of that, night terrors can run in families. Therefore, your child is more likely to have night terrors if someone else in the family has had them.

How to Deal with Night Terror

  • Avoid waking your child during a night terror. The best way to handle a night terror is to wait it out and make sure your toddler doesn’t get hurt by thrashing around. Your kid will settle down and return to sleep on their own in a few minutes. So, if you leave your kid asleep, the night terrors will be over more quickly and your child won’t remember it ever happened. Therefore, it’s best not to wake your toddler during a night terror.
  • Stay close and keep your toddler safe. Guide your child back to bed (if they got out) and tuck them in. Your toddler will usually settle back to sleep quickly at this stage. If you think your child might get hurt, stay close to protect them from bumping the sides of the bed, or other obstacles.
  • Try a regular bedtime routine of bath, story, and bedtime. This might help your toddler feel ready for bedtime and help them get more quality sleep.
  • If your kid is having regular night terrors around the same time each night, try waking them about 30 minutes before the usual night terrors time and resettling them. However, this technique only works for some children.
  • Try not to worry about night terrors. They don’t mean there’s something wrong with your child.

Luckily, most children outgrow night terrors by the time they reach puberty. If your child is having night terrors along with breathing problems like snoring, talk with your doctor for more solutions. It might be helpful to keep a sleep diary that describes when and where your child sleeps and the night terrors frequency. Also, you can share this information with your doctor if you’re concerned that your child isn’t getting enough good-quality sleep.