Dr. Sachin Relia, MD, child and adolescent psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, recommended removing any sharp or dangerous objects from your child’s room before bed and quietly watching them to make sure they were up self reassured. during an episode and falls asleep again on its own. When she gets out of bed, gently guide her back without waking her up.
Stop horror before it begins
Search any parenting forum and you will find many homemade strategies to prevent night terrors, such as sniffing essential oils or falling asleep to soft music. But there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for treating sleep anxiety in children; and few, if any, such alternative treatments have been shown to be effective. However, there is evidence that certain drugs – such as antihistamines, which affect the quality of sleep – can trigger episodes.
According to Dr. Relia is a parent’s best weapon in fighting night terrors by getting adequate and steady sleep that promotes deep, uninterrupted sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends infants 1 to 2 years old between 11 and 14 hours per day, including napping; Preschoolers aged 3 to 5 should have 10 to 13 lessons; and children between 6 and 12 should sleep nine to twelve hours a day.
Getting enough sleep on a regular basis solves “a significant majority” of nighttime terror problems, said Dr. Relia.
The CDC offers basic strategies for improving sleep hygiene, including avoiding caffeine (such as from cola or chocolate) before bed; keep the bedroom dark, calm, and at a comfortable temperature; and develop a consistent bedtime routine. It is also helpful to note when your child is having an episode. Research suggests that waking children up fully 15 to 30 minutes before their expected episodes can help ensure peaceful sleep for everyone. Dr. Relia recommended trying these scheduled wake-up times every night for a month to see if that fixes the problem and, if necessary, continue.
As every parent knows, it is not always easy to keep a consistent schedule for sleep or something else. Dr. Bobbi Hopkins, MD, medical director of the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Sleep Center, said events that disrupt a child’s daily routine, such as vacation or illness, can trigger episodes. This also applies to persistent conditions like pediatric sleep apnea, a condition that affects around 2 percent of children and causes a child to temporarily stop breathing while sleeping. Symptoms may include snoring, mouth breathing, frequent waking and long pauses in breathing followed by choking or gasping for breath. If you suspect your child may have sleep apnea, contact your pediatrician. Resolving underlying ailments can also eliminate night terrors.
Dr. Hopkins added that night seizures share some symptoms with night terrors, including irregular breathing, screaming, sitting up, and hitting. If you notice your child having multiple short episodes in one night, episodes occurring after the first few hours of sleep, or repeating the same behaviors in the same order during each episode, these may be signs of nocturnal seizures and should be seen with a pediatrician be discussed.