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  • What to Do when your Child Experiences Night Terrors

    Learn the difference between night terrors and nightmares, and how to deal with them.
    by Ina Atutubo, MD .
  • Instead of trying to wake up the child, parents could simply offer calm comfort by hugging or cuddling until the child returns to sleep. No medical treatment is usually necessary for routine night terrors since they normally outgrow them with age.  There also seems to be no negative effects on adults who have had night terrors as children.

    Night terrors are often triggered by stress, or being tired both physically and emotionally, usually after playing violent videogames, or playing too close to bedtime.  When it’s difficult to put kids to bed, these simple suggestions could be helpful for your child who experiences night terrors:

    •    Keep regular sleeping patterns
    •    Have a “down time” 30 minutes before bedtime to prepare him for sleep
           o    Turn off the tv, computer and handheld games
           o    Give a glass of warm milk
           o    Give him a warm bath, brushing his teeth
           o    Read him a bedtime story or sing a soothing song
           o    Turn off the lights
    •    In the morning, wake them up calmly
    •    BE CONSISTENT. Having a regular routine will ease the kids into bedtime
     
    For children who get frequent night terrors, it might help to wake your child up before the time that he usually has a night terror. This is thought to interrupt or alter the sleep cycle and prevents night terrors from occurring (it also works for sleepwalking).

    If your child gets night terrors, make sure that baby sitters and other caregivers are aware of them and know what they should do if one occurs.  Especially if your child also sleepwalks with the night terrors, it is best to keep them safe while he sleepwalks. Make sure NOT to panic, and do NOT try to wake him up.  Instead, you can clear the hallway or the path he goes through, and gently guide him back to bed.

    Above all, when night terrors attack, make your child feel loved, and let him know that you will not leave his side. The security you provide can help ease his fears and diminish these occurrences.


    Photo from flickr.com

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