Night terrors are a sleep disturbance during which your child may scream, cry, mumble or thrash during sleeping.
What is Night Terror?
Night terrors refer to a disturbance during sleep when your child may suddenly scream, cry, mumble or trounce about in his or her sleep. It may seem dramatic and can be disturbing for parents to witness, but is usually not a cause for concern as children often outgrow these episodes by about 12 years of age. Night terrors may occur with other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking.
What Causes Night Terror?
Night terrors are a common result of an irregular sleep pattern, change in routine, stress or anxiety faced during the day. Children also have a higher tendency of getting night terrors if they do not get sufficient sleep.
Is My Child having Night Terrors?
During a night terror episode, your child might:
Shout or scream in distress
Sit up in bed and appear upset or frightened
Kick or thrash around
Have an increased heart or breathing rate
If your child is having a night terror episode, do not try to wake him or her.
What should I Do if My Child has Night Terrors?
A child with night terror episodes often worries parents as a good night’s sleep is an important contributor to a child’s development. Occasional and infrequent night terror episodes usually do not warrant any cause for concern – although you may bring it up during a routine check with your paediatrician. However, do consult a doctor if your child experiences the following:
An increased frequency in episodes
Regular disruption of sleep which results in fatigue and inability to perform during the day
Cause for safety concerns or injury
Episodes continue well into the teenage years
Children with night terror episodes typically have no memory of the event after waking up. Parents can follow these steps to help prevent the episodes from recurring:
Observe the pattern and frequency of your child’s night terror episodes (time of occurrence, duration of episode)
Wake your child up about 10 to 15 minutes before the expected night terror episode
Try not to awaken your child fully and put him or her back to sleep
Continuing this routine for a week will usually break the recurrence of the night terror episodes.