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We have a 10mth old baby boy who suffers from night terrors

Hi Maree
We have a 10mth old baby boy who suffers from night terrors and as of 6mth age has been teething (no teeth yet though!). We have tried everything possible to make sleeping easier for him, but it`s not working. Our Health Nurse suggested the re-settling techniques, but they haven`t worked. What is the best way of dealing with the night terrors?
Kind regards

Answer: Hi Nicole, I have attached some information on night terrors for you. It`s ok to suggest resettling techniques but they need to be applied for all sleeps and consistently for up to 3 weeks for them to have the desired results. If you are going to udertake this I reccommend you follow the It`s Time To Sleep settling program from the DVD or this website. Cheers, Maree What Causes Night Terrors?
  • The cause of night terrors is not known, but having night terrors runs in families (it seems to be inherited). Usually there are other people in the family who have had night terrors, or sleepwalking or sleep talking.
  • Night terrors usually start happening when a child is around 4 to 7 years old (sometimes younger) and may happen off and on until the child reaches puberty. It is unusual for them to happen in older teenagers or adults.
  • Night terrors seem to happen more often when there is a stressful event such as starting school, but often there is no obvious stress in the child`s life.
  • Sometimes they occur on nights when a child is unwell.
  • They often seem to happen when a child is not getting enough sleep.
  • Some people have linked night terrors to developmental stages in children`s lives, such as toilet training, but many others do not think these are linked.
  • Having night terrors is not linked to having psychological problems later in life. They seem to be a temporary `phase` which children grow out of.
What to do About Night Terrors? Even though he may not let you comfort him, you need to go to your child, make sure that he is safe, and stay with him until he can relax back into sleep.
  • Talking gently and touching or cuddling him may help him become calm, but if this causes him to be more distressed, just sit nearby.
  • If he is doing something unsafe, such as climbing onto furniture, you do need to stop him, even if he fights you.
  • You do not have to make him wake up, or shout at him. Trying to wake a child may make him more agitated. Just let him go back to sleep when he calms down.
  • Don`t talk with him about the night terrors the next day. He will not remember then, but may be very embarrassed and worried about them.
  • Some people have suggested trying planned waking for about a week.
  • Since the night terrors tend to start around the same time each night, go to him about 10 to 15 minutes before then.
  • Rouse him a little so that he is almost awake, talk to him, perhaps take him to the toilet or give him a small drink of water.
  • After about 5 minutes, let him go back to sleep.
  • This might change his sleep pattern enough so that he does not have the partial wakening later in the night.
  • Think about what is happening in his life and see if there is anything that might be stressful and could be changed. This may not have an effect, but it is worth thinking about.
  • If your child is not getting enough sleep, try to get him into a better sleep routine.
  • Work out how to take care of yourself. It is very distressing being woken by a child whom you cannot comfort.
  • Remember that night terrors are much more upsetting to watch than they are to experience. Children do not have any memory of what has happened, and do not suffer any psychological harm from them.
  • Remember also that night terrors are not a sign of mental health problems.
  • Talk to other people in your family and see if there is a family pattern.
  • Talk to your neighbours about what is happening, so that you do not have to worry about what they may think about your child screaming during the night.
Night terrors usually go away within a week or so, but if they persist, talk to your doctor. It is common for them to come back several times until your child is older.
Answered: 08 Jun 2009