What can I do if my child has night terrors?

Night terrors can be distressing for parents, but they are common and usually pass in time. Children who have night terrors may shout, thrash around, or jump out of bed. Unlike nightmares, this can happen soon after falling asleep. Your child may also not remember night terrors in the morning.

It’s important to know that even if their eyes are open, they may not be awake during an episode.

A toddler sleeping

Supporting your child with terrors

Try to stay calm – it’s likely that you’ve woken abruptly and are feeling alarmed. Only intervene if your child is at risk of injury. For example, if they are running wildly or close to an area where they could hurt themselves.

Talk calmly and block access to dangerous areas. Holding or restraining them may be difficult and lead to wilder behaviour.

As long as your child is safe, don’t try to wake, comfort or talk to them. They may not recognise you, and could become more distressed.

Wait for them to calm by themselves. Afterwards, wake them and settle them back to sleep. Don’t mention the episode, as they won’t remember it.

Preventing night terrors

You can help reduce the likelihood of night terrors in a few different ways. This includes:

  • A relaxing bedtime routine  – this is a good first step.
  • Waking your 15 minutes before the time they usually have terrors, if it happens at the same time each night. Doing this for seven days may be enough to stop the terrors without affecting sleep quality.
  • Talking to your child when they are calm about anything that might be worrying them.

Most children grow out of night terrors, and they don’t cause any long-term harm. If you’re worried, or your child has night terrors frequently and intensely, it’s a good idea to get medical advice. You can also see NHS advice or speak to our parenting coaches on our free chat service.

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