If you are a parent or have children in your family, you understand how difficult it is to calm them when they awaken from a nightmare or horrible dream. The child eventually falls back asleep, but you know how difficult it is to manage the child during this phase.

Night terrors are episodes of extreme screaming, weeping, thrashing, or panic during sleep that occur repeatedly in children aged 3 to 10, but most commonly in the 3-7 age group. When the brain is in the NREM stage of sleep, the child partially awakens and the portion of the brain that controls the "fight or flight" biomes becomes overly aroused.

Nightmares, on the other hand, are terrifying dreams that normally happen in the second half of the night, when dreams are most powerful. Children make up weeping and being terrified, and it may be difficult to get them back to sleep. If your child has a bad dream, the greatest thing you can do is calm them down.

What are Signs of Night Terror

A child experiencing night terrors might show symptoms of a panic attack including sitting up in bed, acting scared, yelling, sweating, thrashing, and running away. After a few minutes, or sometimes longer, the child relaxes and falls back asleep.

What Happens in Night Terror

Night terrors normally occur approximately 2-3 hours after a child falls asleep. This occurs while the brain is in the non-REM (non-rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. The baby partly awakens, and the portion of the brain responsible for "fight-or-flight" reflexes gets over excited. This causes the child to feel worried and terrified.

Night terrors are most common among children under the age of 13. Because night terrors occur when a child is half awake, disturbances in sleep might increase their likelihood.

Other factors that may increase the likelihood of night terrors are:

  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Being unwell while using certain medications.
  • Sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings, experiencing anxiety or stress, or consuming excessive caffeine.
  • Night terrors and other sleep disorders, such as sleepwalking, frequently run in families.

A child could have one or more night terrors before stopping. Night terrors usually subside before the teen years.

What to do if your child has night terrors

Avoid waking your child if they're experiencing a night terror. If you wake a youngster who is having a night terror, they will become confused and disoriented. If you leave your child asleep, the night terror will pass fast and your youngster will not remember what happened.

Wait till your youngster stops thrashing about. Return your child to bed (if they have gotten out) and tuck them in. At this point, your youngster will usually fall asleep again fast. If you believe your child may be injured, stay close and guide them away from striking or knocking the cot, bed, or other obstacles that may be present.

Maintain a consistent bedtime routine of bath, story, and bed. This can help children prepare for sleep and receive more sleep. In certain youngsters, a lack of sleep is associated with night terrors.

If your child experiences night terrors at the same time every night, try gently waking them up about half an hour before their usual night terror time and resettling them. This works for some kids.

If your child wakes up and walks around during their night terrors, ensure that the bedroom and other places of the house are secure for them.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

The majority of kids outgrow night terrors. But consult your doctor if:

  • Night terrors last more than 30 minutes, occur more than once per week, or interfere with your child from obtaining adequate sleep.
  • Throughout the day, your child appears to be very sad, afraid, or stressed.
  • Your youngster has been hungry, stiffening, or jerking during the night terror.
  • Your youngster snores, has heartburn, or burps excessively.

How to Prevent Night Terror

If your child has repeated night terrors, there are a few things you may try that may help. Breaking up their sleep is one example.

  • First, identify how many minutes after bedtime the night terrors begin.
  • Wake your child 15 minutes before the anticipated night terror, and keep them awake and out of bed for 5 minutes. You might want to see if they will use the restroom.
  • Continue with this routine for a week.

Night terror experiences are brief and typically occur over several weeks. By the time they reach adolescence, most youngsters have outgrown them.


The majority of kids outgrow night terrors. Wake your child 15 minutes before an expected episode and keep them awake for 5 minutes to help reduce them. Practice good sleep hygiene (scheduled bedtimes, limiting screen time before bed). Adults who suffer from night terrors may benefit greatly from psychotherapy.

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