27 answers

7 Year Old Having Night Terrors

About 4 years ago my son began having these aweful episodes, which I assumed were nightmares, where we can't calm him down. He sees things and yells at us to watch out and his body is shaking so badly that I literally need to wrap myself around him, and he still shakes. It's almost like sleep talking but this child is in a panic and so scarred he almost vomits. Our doctor says what my son has are night terrors, a mild form of night terrors. I eliminated a lot of television and video games, yet they continue. Not as often but they do.
I would like to know if there are any other parents out there going through this and if they have any advice on how to prevent or ease these episodes. It's not like he remembers anything in the morning but it sure is scary.
Thank You

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Featured Answers

I have no personal experience with this, but someone told me that sleeping with a blue nightlight really worked for their kids.

To add to the list of possible causes: Food allergies may be a factor worth considering. Wheat or gluten allergy can be tested for or you can simply try cutting wheat out of his diet and seeing if there is an improvement. Best of luck!

My son had night terrors for a while. One episode was really bad and I could not wake him. He looked like he was awake because his eyes were open, but he couldnt focus on who I was. It was really scary. You can't prevent them. They just seem to happen. All I could do was hold him until he stopped shaking and screaming. One thing that helped was when he started crying I would walk him to the bathroom and help him go potty. It seems strange, but it helped (except for the time I mentioned before). I dont think cutting TV out completely will help. My son watches mostly Sponge Bob. I doubt that is what was giving him nightmares. The doctors wont do anything. Its just something the kids outgrow. Good luck.

More Answers

My son who is now 8 years old went through night terrors when he was about 3-6, we partnered with his peditrictian as well as a prayer group at our church and we have not had any night terrors since about 6 maybe 6 1/2. I did a lot of research regarding night terrors. We even started watching what we were watching as parents and not having on when he was awake ex-News, C.S.I. type shows, ect.and watching what we were even reading to him, but the most important was partnering with his doctor. We still to this night pray every night before he goes to bed and ask God to watch over him and whatever may try to go through his mind or dreams, that nothing that is not of God be allowed to enter. Good luck, I know it is hard as a parent when we want to take all the bad stuff away but we are not always able.It is very important that you try not to interfer for your and his safety, I was advised not to touch him while he was really voilently acting out unless he was in danger of hurting himself. I do highly recommend that you partner with his doctor because night terrors for some children is not just a phase that goes away. Again good luck and my prayers are with you and covering your son.

When he wakes up and you go to him, have him say a little bit of what the dream is about. THEN have him say: "I am going in to other people's fears and helping them wake up. This is not my dream."

Before he goes to sleep, have him say, "I am safe and my family is safe, so I can sleep easy"
or if you want "the angels are protecting our family" something like that. By doing this every night you set the subconscious to work doing something constructive and it bumps out of the looping rut into the smooth groove (if you remember record players).

Love, L.

My daughter once in a while wakes up in the middle of the night and is shaking. The first thing I do is reassure her that she is OKAY. Next, I take her hand and we walk around the house, and we talk about something to get her mind off the shaking. Diverting her attention to something else stops the shaking the fastest. Keeping her in one position only exacerbates the shaking. I have had episodes of waking up shaking, and that is what has worked best for me. Just walking around and telling myself to relax. Also, thinking about something that makes me feel calm. In the past, the shaking has lasted up to two hours. But now that I know nothing is wrong with me, I just walk around and tell myself I am okay and RELAX. The shaking stops pretty quickly.

I know you wrote this several years ago but you described my sons exact scenario. It used to happen more frequently but he had another last night- so bad he woke and scared his older sister across the house. I thought he would grow out of them but he is now 7 and they have been happening since he was 4. Do you see any thing in your now older sons life that is connected to the night terrors? I ask b/c he just seems so stressed- I wonder if he just holds too much in and I want to see what I can do to help him live a more relaxed life BUT maybe that has nothing to do with night terrors? I just don't know? He also grinds his teeth intensely at night as well. I just feel for him. We have had a great deal of emotional change (loss of both grandparents/move across country) so I know he has stress but not sure if that is really tied or not? THANKS for any advice for a mom following in your footsteps!

Our son went through about a year of off and on night terrors when he was four. You definitely can't do anything once a child is having them. We'd just wait in the room with him to make sure he didn't hurt himself, but learned not to try to hold him or comfort him because it didn't matter.

I honestly don't know if you can prevent them. We never figured out what triggered them, if anything. They were pretty random. They finally just stopped and knock on wood, we haven't had any episodes for about a year now.

Hi S.,

My son went through a few episodes like you describe as well. Unfortunately he remembered in the morning and even still today. It was probably one of the most disturbing things I have experienced as a parent. My son also was shaking like I had never seen before, even in my bed with me cradling him in my arms. He insisted there were ninjas in the light fixture above my bed, and that they were throwing bombs at us. Eventually we just had to sleep with the light on.

Anyways, I happened to tell my massage therapist about the episode one day during my massage. Now you have to know, John is a little bit out there, but I usually follow his advice. He hasn't been wrong yet. What he said to me made perfect sense. He told me to take any type of fantasy/ wizardry out of his audio/visual environment. Therefore no Harry Potter, no shows having to do with faeries or fantasy lands, no video games that portray any of the such as well. According my masseur, he says there is a whole other world out there, and that children are more acceptable to it because of their innocence. They have the ability to see good things,(like when my son visits my grandmother in his sleep, yet when he is awake knows nothing about her. She died when he was a year old. I know he visits her only because he talks and laughs with her and another friend of mine who died around the same time, while he is sleeping. So on the same note that they can bring something good "out", a child who is sleeping can also let bad or evil things cross over into his world. They can't control the bad stuff to make it go back. Therefore the extreme night terrors. They can't stop what they have started and it scares them to death. Luckily for most children, this is all taking place while they are still asleep, even if they look and act awake. I know you are probably thinking I am a nut case right about now, and I'd probably agree with you 100%. Even as I type these words to you I feel a bit nutty and apprehensive to even forward them on to you. But I followed my friend's advice, and you know what it worked! He hasn't had not a single night terror since. Not even a bad dream. It's funny too because I consider myself the G-rated mom, and only have age appropriate videos and books for my son. I won't even get cable or satellite for reasons like this! He was given the Harry Potter books as a gift from his cousin at 9yrs old and the entire movie set from my client. I had never even let him watch past the first video because I thought it was too much for him to process even at 9yrs old. Bottom line take a closer look at what your son watches on the tv and the type of books he looks at, even at 7yrs old, books his level have been known to have a bit of witchcraft now and then. I'm really not nuts, just open minded and always open to trying something new if it might help, even if it seems a bit/ ok alot out there! What have you got to lose, but those bad horrible dreams right? Good luck to you I hope all works out well.

eliminate all tv...makes a huge difference in kids lives.P.

Hi. my daughter has had those since she was 2 years old. She is now 8 years old. You have to let them go through it on their own for your safety. Only step in if they are about to hurt them selves. Just rub their backs and assure them they are safe. My daughter got them from trauma. It had nothing to do with tv. It had to do with sexual assult while in the hospital for type 1 diabetes. She was just diagnosed. You may have to put your child on a mild sedtive (anxiety pill) before bed to keep him calm and relaxed. Only do that if they continue and or they become severe where hes endangering himself or hurting himself. Good luck. Try a warm bath before bed to calm him. Put bedtime bath in it or have him wash with johnson and johnson bedtime bath. Good luck, M. Petersen

My little boy had these from very young, just a few months old, to about 2 and 1/2 years old. We always attributed it to a difficult birth, he was 10 weeks premature, and in the hospital for a month after birth. It never seemed to be about 'bad dreams', there didn't seem to be content to his agitation, just screaming, and aimless agitated walking around when he was old enough to walk.

They stopped completely after two sessions of NMT, (neuromodulation technique). We used the following practitioner -

Sutherland Chiropractic Clinic
Vikki Sutherland, DC
2635 Cleveland Ave, Suite 1
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Contact information
###-###-####
____@____.com

If you do a search you can probably find someone local to you who does this technique. I would imagine that biofeedback would also be helpful, or HANDLE work, anything that works with repatterning the neural pathways. Prayer can do this kind of repatterning, too. It does seem to be related to a glitch in the nervous system.

BTW, my little guy is also gluten sensitive, which we didn't know at that time, could have been a contributing factor? Gluten definitely agitates his nervous system.

Anyway, good luck, I know how heartbreaking it is to watch your child in such distress. Even if you don't 'treat it' it's likely to work itself out as his nervous system matures. Although, I've known some adults who have night terrors, so it doesn't always.

My son had night terrors for a while. One episode was really bad and I could not wake him. He looked like he was awake because his eyes were open, but he couldnt focus on who I was. It was really scary. You can't prevent them. They just seem to happen. All I could do was hold him until he stopped shaking and screaming. One thing that helped was when he started crying I would walk him to the bathroom and help him go potty. It seems strange, but it helped (except for the time I mentioned before). I dont think cutting TV out completely will help. My son watches mostly Sponge Bob. I doubt that is what was giving him nightmares. The doctors wont do anything. Its just something the kids outgrow. Good luck.

I have no personal experience with this, but someone told me that sleeping with a blue nightlight really worked for their kids.

My 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old neice have night terrors also. I found some helpful advice on this website: http://parents.berkeley.edu/advice/sleep/terrors.html#sta.... We tried taking her socks and pajama pants off at night, as suggested by some of the parents on the website, and surprisingly, the frequency of her episodes has decreased from almost nightly to about weekly. We're hoping they will go away entirely soon.

Good luck!

To add to the list of possible causes: Food allergies may be a factor worth considering. Wheat or gluten allergy can be tested for or you can simply try cutting wheat out of his diet and seeing if there is an improvement. Best of luck!

My brother sufffered from these, there is nothing you can really do. I would eliminate TV as much as possible because that is where they go so many of the images, even from commercials. Good luck.

Yes, I really do understand what you are going through. Every night on guard wondering if tonight he will have another night Terror. The only thing i have found that helps is. Leaving a little more brighter nightlight then normal. I also found that it is more possible for him to have a night Terror if he is overly tired. As much as he hates it. I put him down for a little snooze or at least down time during the day.
He has been having these since he was a baby. Now that he is 6 I found that he is more able to talk about the dreams. Usually he is screaming for me or because in his mind I am getting hurt. So usually when he has one. I say "Gabe look at mommy! Wheres mommy? wake up bab and look at mommy" as soon as he starts to notice me. I say something like "Here i am, Im right here" and then I ask if he wants water or to take a quick walk around the house....anything to get him out of it.
I hope this helped for you please let me know how it goes..

My daughter had these. They are scarey!!

We found a drink would calm her down. Just keep him safe. I think its worse for those watching than the child themself. She has outgrown them.

But water did help !

HI S.,
My, now 16 year old daughter had night terrors for a couple of years around the same age as yours. I agree with you that it was terrifying, at least at first, for me. She stared wildly into space as if she were seeing something horrible or she stared directly at me but did not see me. I found that the more I tried to talk to her or wake her, the worse it got. I had to remain calm, get her out of the room (my younger daughter was sleeping there also) and we just sat on the couch or I did and she paced. I would pick up a picture book, start looking at it, pointing out details calmly and eventually she would start looking at it and would slowly come out of it. I would put her back to bed and she remembered nothing in the morning. It happened about 45 minutes after she fell sleep, so predictably. I tried to have a calm reassuring bedtime. Eventually she needed to get some counseling about other issues that involved fears and the night terrors slowly resolved. She always was a sensitive kid... but she is happy and self-assured now. Hang in there!

The night terrors will pass, but I would recommend talking with your dr again. 4 years is an awfully long time for this to go on. Most kids outgrow it by age 7. Try to not let your child get too exhausted during the day/evening. Have a calm night time routine. It seemed to help when I played soft music as my children went off to sleep.

I am a M. of 6, current ages 12 to 24

Our 6 year old son has had them too and still does occationally. He gets very angry and if we try to hold him and comfort him, he gets almost violent. We took him to the sleep disorder clinic and Lucile Packard Hospital and they agreed it was night terrors, said that they usually grow out of it and that is a developmental stage. They wanted to do a sleep study on our son but the terrors have reduced and we decided just to wait.

Our boy has had many serious open heart surgeries and a life full of traumatic things so we think part of it ties into that. If it continue, I would suggest taking him to LPCH and having him checked out. Sometimes these terrors are related to sleep apnia which causes them to stop breathing at night and the body's response is to wake up only part of the brain. Part stays asleep and part wakes up, which is why they seem so disconnected from reality.

I'd be happy to talk to you more if you want. I have to go to work but will give you my email and feel free to contact me if you want to.

My email is ____@____.com and my name is M.. Good luck and trust your instincts. You're a good mom!!

M.

I had them when I was a kid. No fun. Eliminate television period. Make sure to give him a good, regular, repeated instruction on the nature of God, (ominpotent, kind, just, etc) and so as he comes to consciousness, he has something to grasp on to that puts the irrational fears away. I used to imagine that the 4 feet between my bed and the closet door was millions of light years distant and I would die of old age before getting there. He is facing irrational fears that are so real as to be like awakeness. Rational understanding of the big picture of life will help him set these irrational brain episodes aside, or at least control them better.

I helped a friend through this with her 7 year old son. After much research and trying several things, we learned that many people who have these night terrors are being "woken" by their bodies in a sort of panic because they are overheating, or feeling suffocated. It also seemed to happen with this boy most often about 1 to 2 hours after falling asleep, just when the deepest sleep sets in. SO, after he feel asleep, we uncovered his feet (and head if necessary), and then woke him after about 1 1/2 hours, usually doing a little something to make sure he woke up, like take him to the bathroom, or give him a drink. The terrors totally stopped and have not come back. I know how scary this is, good luck!

Food coloring is the cause in my daughter's Night Terrors. My daughter is now eight, but has had night terrors since 2 years old (when she started eating a larger variety of foods). After about a year, we were sure it was food related (after trying all the unlikely solutions like prayer, she has never been a TV watcher, daycare issues - none were the problem). It took us 4 years of testing various food groups, etc before we realized it was not a specific food group- it was anything with food coloring. We still have not narrowed down if certain colors are exempt, but we do know that Soya Sauce is bad (carmel color), orange cheddar cheese is VERY bad, Vanilla yogurt has 'color' in it, the list goes on. Now that we know the cause - she has gone from night terrors every single night, to about once per month when we missed something on a food label, or when she has been at a birthday party. I hope this helps! (I wish the food manufacturers would leave out so many of these 'poisons'). Best of luck everyone!

Hi S.,

One more story to share, one more option to try..... My daughter's terrors started about age 6 and lasted through about age 10. Same situation as your son. (Her first one was hysteria about the "people in the microwave".) Once I figured out I needed to physically restrain her, it became only a matter of a few minutes of hugging her tightly until she would calm, heave a big sigh and say she needed to go to the bathroom. When she came out it was like nothing had happened. She would just say she was ready to got back to bed. Her head would hit the pillow and she would be sound asleep. It only happened a couple times a year and I'm not sure it was connected to a full bladder or not but it was consistant. It didn't take long for BOTH of us to figure out that it was that small physical struggle that seemed to end them so much faster. As she got older (and we were going to bed closer to the same time), she learned to just come to my bed, (wild-eyed and trembling) to be held tightly and calmed. She never wanted to stay. Just a couple of minutes and she would say she was okay...potty call, and back to bed. That is what worked for us.

If you do try this and it works, you may want to have Dad participate part of the time now too. (My husband worked nights almost that entire part of her life. He only saw one episode.) I had only the one girl so I'm not sure how comfortable a 10 year old (hopefully they won't last that long) would feel about that kind of full body contact with Mom. Good luck.

Smiles, rainbows and God bless,
T. F

I had those night terrors when I was young, and they went away after about 6 months. This was before television was big and no videos were invented yet, so hang in there, and just keep him from hurting himself while it is happening. No one knows why these happen, and the child is not able to stop it so disipline should not an option. He does not have control over this. Hope this little bit of info helps, I know you want an answer that stops it, but the brain is a complex organ. Patience is the key..

My now eleven year old son went through a period (two years ago) where he was having night terrors every night for more than three months. I did a great deal of research and tried lots of things like no TV and waking him up before the night terror hit (it was very predictable timing...one hour after he fell asleep). None of it worked. We underwent a course of neurofeedback and the night terrors resolved fairly quickly and have not returned. Practioner, Lori DiRicco, is wonderful. Contact her at ____@____.com cost of sessions is equal to a therapy appointment. It was well worth the cost as our lives were greatly disrupted (his older brother was terrified, witnessing the night terrors, and he could not have sleepovers etc. We were ready to go on the wait list at the Stanford U sleep disorder clinic when we found Lori. She can put you onto some web-sites that explain neurofeedback and the current research. Good luck to you and your son.

My son had terrible night terrors also. Thankfully he seems to have grown out of them. He probably had them for about a year or two. I sympathize with you--it's so hard to see our child in that state and not be able to comfort him!

Here's an idea you might think about. My brother also had sleep issues when he was young (sleepwalking). It turned out to be related to what he was eating. Whenever he had eaten something with red food coloring (like fruit punch), those were the nights that it happened. So my mom had to cut out red food dye from his diet. You might keep a log of what he eats and drinks and see if there's a pattern.
Good luck!

Hello Sylvia,

I too have a 7 year old boy with major night terrors. We tried everything from sleeping with us to , praying with him nightly, to light blanklets. We thought maybe he was too hot and disturbed during his sleep. Well what can I say other than the fact that I serve a mighty God. One night I thought about how you can annoint people during sickness with oil. So I prayed and placed oil on my son's forehead and arms and feet . I told that dirty Devil you can't bother my son anymore he belongs to Jesus I bound bad dreams and loose good dreams in Jesus name. I took authority over my trial and believed it with all my heart. His night terrors are almost no more. It's been two months now and only 2 incidences. PRAISE GOD.

Thank you for your story I thought I was all alone in this issue. Your sister in Christ M. Rosa

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