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Is There Treatment for Night Terrors in Children?

by
author image Alicia Gallegos
Alicia Gallegos is a journalist in northwestern Indiana. She previously wrote for the "American Medical News, "a Chicago-based health newspaper published by the American Medical Association. She began her career at the South Bend Tribune, where she covered public safety, courts, food safety, education and health care.
Is There Treatment for Night Terrors in Children?
Night terrors can be traumatic for young children and their parents. Photo Credit David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

Overview

Night terrors can be extremely traumatic for young children, not to mention frustrating for parents who want to comfort their child. The nighttime condition is characterized by a sudden arousal from sleep with a scream or cry, accompanied by intense fear. The episodes generally happen within the first half of the night and are often followed by partial or total amnesia after the incident. Several remedies can help children fight off night terrors and receive better, more relaxing sleep.

Comfort

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most children who have night terrors only need comfort and reassurance to dispel the emotions that come with the condition. Most children outgrow night terrors after a short time, says the site, and don't usually remember the events afterward. Soothe your child by talking softly to her after she wakes from the episode.

Enable Sleep Structure

Night terrors can be triggered when a child does not receive adequate sleep for several days in a row and becomes overly tired. The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford recommends making sure the child goes to bed at a regular time and early enough to receive the proper amount of sleep. Children may need to have a nap during the day if they are not receiving enough sleep at night. MayoClinic.com advises that preschoolers need at least 11 hours of sleep a night, while school-age children can get by on about 10 hours. Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night.

Record Patterns

It may help to keep records of how much time goes by between your child
falling asleep and the start of the night terror. After recording the times for several nights, The Lucile Packard Children's Hospital site recommends awakening your child every 15 minutes before the expected time of the night terror. Make sure the child is fully awake and out of bed for at least five to 10 minutes. Continue waking your child like this for seven consecutive nights, then stop and see if the night terrors have subsided.

Medical Treatment

In extreme cases, psychotherapy or counseling may be appropriate for children with night terrors. The UMMC site recommends contacting your child's physician if the night terrors become persistent or frequent, happen often enough to regularly disrupt sleep, include other symptoms or cause injuries to the child.

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