Does Anyone Know About Night Terrors?

Updated on March 18, 2009
J.B. asks from Kansas City, MO
12 answers

I am looking for night terrors and what to do about them. My son has had problems with nightmares for a while now. I don't remember him having them as a baby or toddler, just for about the last four years, since five. Over the last year they have gotten worse. Also, his room is in a loft over the living room so I can hear him while he sleeps. I have heard him crying or sounding panicked and gone up there and he is still asleep. If I wake him he is in this state between wake and sleep and his breathing is odd, like he's hyperventilating or something. He will talk alot in his sleep so i can usually tell what it is about but not why it's scary. Once, he had a bad dream about math. When he wakes he's often crying and doesn't know why. I just talk to him so his mind moves away from what he was dreaming about and that usually works. We got him a dream catcher that he hung next to his bed in an attempted to give him more security. Last night he had one but he didn't remember. I could tell because his breath was off again and then we woke up crying but thought it was because he couldn't sleep but I had just gone to bed maybe 30 minutes before and he was asleep. I just feel so bad for him, I wish I could make it stop. The whole thing scares me, I can imagine how it makes him feel. Also, I worry about the underline causes of something like this. Has anyone had any experience with something like this. Are they night terrors? If so, what would be the treament for them?

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answers from Topeka on

My daughter had these as well as walking in her sleep... and one thing that we did was screen all the TV shows she watched and saw that when she watched certain shows the dreams were much worse. We, then, limited and found other things for her to watch or do and it got better. Some children have very vivid imaginations and I was told that is part of it but that they will grow out of it. My daughter did. She is dyslexic and very imaginative and smart. Nightmares aren't an issue any more - she'll be 15 in a couple weeks.

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answers from St. Louis on

According to what I read on the internet and what my pediatrician has told me, this sounds like it could be nightmares or terrors. My daughter had one once, at the age of 2-1/2, and it freaked both me and my husband out. She was in her room screaming and crying and my husband picked her up and she kept kicking and punching and screaming. I had done some research prior to this happening (my nephew gets them) and I took her from my husband, laid her back down on her bed, patted her back and whispered in her ear that we were there and everything was alright and to go back to sleep. She instantly stopped fighting and screaming and continued sleeping. My pediatrican said that main difference between mares and terrors is that a terror is a lot like sleep walking, you never want to wake them up but you want to get them back into a "safe" sleeping mode. A child having a night terror usually will not wake up during and they don't remember the dream the next day. If it is a nightmare, they usually don't get as physical, they can wake up during enough to realize the difference between sleep and awake, and they usually can remember what the dream was about. The best advice I can give you would be to contact your pediatrician about it and see what they think. My nephew's were getting so bad that they referred him to a therapist and it turned out to be that he was lacking in certain social skills and a few motor skills and once the therapist worked out his social skills, he hasn't had problems with the terrors anymore, he is 4-1/2 now. I hope this helps and that you can get your little guy sleeping soundly.

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answers from St. Louis on

Night terrors and nightmares are very different. I took my son to Nancy B., a sleep specialist, at St. Lukes and this is the short version of what I found out. Night terrors will not be remembered by the child, they can't explain what happened because they don't know - it is a physical reaction, but no mental connection to it. It is hereditary, so if you or your husband were sleep walkers, night terrors, talk in your sleep, etc. that is probably where it comes from. You don't need to wake up your child because they don't know it is happening (my son SCREAMS out and it is very scary to hear).

Nightmares are when they are still and asleep and these are mental rather than physical. Children definitely need reassurance when they are affected by these, but avoid using "monster mist" or looking under the bed/closet, etc., simply tell him that you are there and you will keep him safe. Sleep deprivation actually triggers both to happen MORE frequently. If my son goes 2 or 3 days with no or short naps or gets to bed too late - he usually has multiple terrors at night. Try getting him down earlier, even if its in small increments to see what amount of sleep he actually needs (hard to do when it is lighter longer these days). Good luck! By the way Nancy was highly recommended to me by multiple people - if you want a one on one consultation about your child’s specific needs email me and I'll look up her number (my insurance covered the visit).



answers from Anchorage on

I am so sorry for you. I have gone through this with my first two sons and I am prepering myself for it to start soon with my 3 year old. The only thing I can say is it not hurt him. If you don't wake him up he will most likely not even know it happened. I do know that me sons experienced most of their night terrors after a very busy day. So you could try making sure there is extra quiet time before he falls asleep if he has extra excitement. I'm sorry this probably isn't much help but hopefully he will grow out of it. My sons' lasted from about 2 years old til 5 or 6. My oldest son had one or two a year til about age 13.



answers from Kansas City on

I saw a news story about this a while back. You are to wake the person about 30 minutes after they fall asleep. Not really awake, but just so they stir around and then go back to sleep. It breaks the sleep cycle so they don't get into a super deep sleep and have the night terrors. Maybe you can find more info on this theory, because I'm just going off what I remember about the story. It can't hurt to try it.



answers from Wichita on

Good Mornng J., I am going to send you a link to this discussion several of us had Sun or Sat. on Mamasource

I learned there is a difference between nightmares and night terrors.

God Bless you and your little guy
K. Nana of 5



answers from Kansas City on

Hi J.,
My 4 yr old (almost 5) has night terrors as well. Night terrors occur because of the natural fight or flight response in the body. The nervous system gets activated and the mind actually invents a reason for it, a nightmare. I found this amazing article... that has helped me so much.

Good Luck and let me know how things go. I feel for ya, I know how scary it can be.



answers from Joplin on

Check it out on,
My son had bad dreams alot when he was little.
I made sure the last thing he watched on TV or read was happy. We also said nightly prayers. These things of course didn't cure them, however they didn't happen as often.



answers from Wichita on

We found that Rescue Remedy can be helpful. It's a Bach flower essence and you can by it at a health food store.

This may not be a popular approach, but we also lss had a geomancer do some work to change the energy around our house. He found a problem with a ley line and fixed it. Our daughter never had a night terror after that, and only rarely has bad dreams.



answers from Kansas City on

These typically occur in children from 2 to 6 years old, and differ somewhat from nightmares. When having a night terror, the toddler is never fully awake and probably doesn’t even know you’re there. He becomes confused and inconsolable, and after you see such a scene you may feel similarly.

The good news is that night terrors can often be treated without medication. Treatment usually consists of simple changes in routine or interruption of sleep patterns. Even if your child does not completely stop having night terrors with treatment, he will most likely outgrow them.

Your first instinct may be to wake him up. But that will probably make him even more upset and confused. That’s the last thing you want.

Some experts advise parents to gently console their child, but others say it is futile due to the fact that he doesn’t know you’re there. The most important thing you can do is make sure he is safe and doesn’t get hurt. Many children flail their arms and legs about when having a night terror, and some even bolt out of bed. So safety is a big concern for them.

One of the primary causes of night terrors is going to bed too tired. Making sure that your son is getting enough sleep may reduce or eliminate the occurrence of night terrors. You could put him to bed earlier, wake him up later, extend his nap or put him down for an additional one during the day.

If the additional sleep doesn’t get rid of the night terrors, you may need to try interrupting his sleep cycle. This is accomplished by waking him up after about 1 to 2 hours of sleep, or about 15 minutes before the time the night terrors usually occur. This change in sleep pattern could ward of the night terrors.

If these methods do not work, talk to your child’s doctor, who may determine that he needs medication to get rid of his night terrors.

Night terrors are scarier for parents than they are for children. The child does not know what is going on when he has one, and will not remember it the next morning. But effectively treating them will result in a better night’s sleep for both you and your child.



answers from Kansas City on

hi J....i don't know if i really have any advice, but my son has had night terrors before as well. we asked the dr about them about a year ago and there is no treatment, but i was told to leave the child alone and not wake them. when my son has them i literally sit in the middle of the floor and just say, "i'm right here. you are ok. come to me if you hear me." he usually will walk to me and sit in my lap where i console him. i will say that i have noticed myself that if he does not have a nap...they are more likely to happen. not all the time...but the only time he has had them was when we skipped his nap. hope this helps...please know that you aren't alone and your son will get past it!



answers from Topeka on

yes there arenight terrors. My son had them up to about 6. We took our son to the Dr because we could not figure out how to help him. The Dr told us there was nothing we could do but be there for him and that he would grow out of them around 5 or so. So we did what we could and he did grow out of them. I remeber how frustrating it was for us. Hang in there. Ut will get better.

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