How to Stop Night Terrors

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Night terrors play havoc on parents' anxieties. One moment your child is sleeping peacefully, the next she's screaming and running in circles in the room. Not to panic, night terrors can be stopped. You'll need some intestinal fortitude and willingness to wake a sleeping child, but it can be done.

  • Observe when the night terror occurs. Typically, it will occur in the first few hours of sleep, when the brain wants to move to lighter, REM sleep but your child is so tired the brain also wants to stay deeply asleep. This schism, theorists believe, triggers the neurological event of a night terror.

  • Wake your child about a half hour before the night terror is due to happen. It's antithetical, but what you're doing is interrupting the sleep pattern to reset it and have a peaceful night. You want her to be awake for at least five minutes, ideally 15. Roll a ball to her, play a quiet game or talk softly together.

  • Walk him to the bathroom. While bed-wetting is an entirely different issue, some children are awakened by the need to empty their bladder, but they are so heavily asleep, they can't fully wake.

  • Introduce "feet up off the floor time" in the middle of the day. Night terrors appear to be exacerbated by stress and being overtired. Your child doesn't need to nap, though this might be helpful. You just need your child to have a half hour of quiet to settle any stressful events from the morning and regroup for the afternoon.

  • Follow these steps for 7 to 10 days, and the night terrors should stop. You can then eliminate the "feet up off the floor" time and then, when you're really ready, the night waking. If the night terrors continue, consult a pediatrician, as it could be a health issue related to sleep apnea caused by tonsillitis or adenoids.

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