All you need to know about night terrors

Most parents will have had to comfort their child in the night due to the occasional nightmare, but some children may be experiencing what is known as night terrors. Children suffering from night terrors can be inconsolable for a time after they wake in the middle of the night.

What are they?
  • They affect one in five children.
  • They often occur about two to three hours into a child’s sleep cycle, and unlike a nightmare the child will often have little to no recollection of the incident when they wake in the morning.
  • Night terrors are commonly caused by lack of sleep, genetics and most commonly stress.
What happens?
  • During a night terror, the child might call out or sit up in bed.
  • Their heart rate will increase, they may sweat and make involuntary movements.
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What can parents do?
  • Clinical psychologist David Coleman says there is no ‘fool proof’ treatment or solution for night terrors. Most children grow out of them eventually, but the age this happens isn’t set for every child.
  • That being said, parents can reduce the amount stress, and regulate the child’s anxiety during the day to help reduce night terrors. Techniques like massage, music and meditation can help your child to unwind before going to bed.
  • If your child is having a night terror don’t try to wake them. Instead stroke them lightly on their forehead or rub their back or tummy in soothing circles. Once the child is awake, make sure to hold them to calm them down and soothe their fears.
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