Night terrors in toddlers are fairly common, and they usually occur within an hour and a half of children falling asleep. While you might get worried about your toddler when he or she is experiencing night terrors, they are not usually serious. Kids often completely outgrow them by age 12. Read on to learn more about night terrors in children and how to deal with them.
What You Need to Know About Night Terrors in Toddlers
What are Night Terrors?
Night terrors are a kind of sleep disturbance. When they happen, children appear to be in between being awake and asleep. Night terrors occur during non-REM sleep, which is the dreamless part of the sleep cycle. This is within the first third of the night. Nightmares, on the other hand, occur during REM or the dream sleep, the last third of the night. Additionally, unlike nightmares, night terrors are more dramatic and your toddler will likely not remember having one.
What are Signs of Night Terrors in Toddlers?
The most common feature of night terrors is your child being inconsolable. Toddlers will often bolt upright, scream or cry in distress with a look of panic or fear. When you try to console them, they will often appear confused or remain unresponsive. Other signs are rapid breathing and elevated heartbeat, thrashing around, and sweating. After a few minutes, the child will calm down and go back to sleep.
What Causes Night Terrors in Toddlers?
Symptoms of night terrors may have you thinking your kid is suffering from a serious mental illness, but don’t go jumping to conclusions just yet. Research into night terrors has no definitive answer to what causes them, but findings suggest more innocuous factors such as having a fever, taking certain medications, and having nocturnal asthma.
Studies have also found evidence those night terrors are hereditary, meaning they often run in the family. Night terrors have also been linked to an unhealthy diet, stress, and poor sleeping habits.
What Should I Do If My Kid Has a Night Terror?
While they look scary, night terrors in toddlers are not physically harmful. They are actually more distressing to parents witnessing them. The best way to help your kids during a night terror is by patiently waiting it out and making sure they do not accidentally hurt themselves when they are thrashing about.
Do not try to wake up your child during a night terror as this usually doesn’t work. When it does, they will just be disoriented and will have a harder time going back to sleep.
How Do I Prevent Night Terrors in Toddlers?
Preventing night terrors can be done by making sure your toddler has a proper diet and enough sleep. A simple and relaxing routine before bedtime such as reading together will also be helpful. You should also make sure your child isn’t too tired from their daily activities. If they have too much going on, try to lessen stimulation and lengthen your child’s naptime.
If your kid has recurring night terrors, take note of what time it usually happens. Once you’ve established an estimate, gently wake up your toddler about 15-20 minutes before he or she usually has the night terror. While this is not a foolproof way of stopping night terrors, over time, your toddler may wake up to prevent a night terror.
Help your child ease into a good night’s sleep with this lovely bedtime story from Fox & Sheep:
Night terrors may be scary, but understanding them will help ease your worries as a parent. While there is no treatment for night terrors, children will often outgrow them. If they happen frequently and start to disrupt your kid’s daily activities, consult with your doctor on what else you can do to help your child.
Do you have other tips on how to deal with night terrors in toddlers? Let us know in the comments section below!
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