Night Terrors In Toddlers – 10 Tips For Better Restful Sleep
Today in this article I would like to discuss night terrors in toddlers. Let me set the scene, You are suddenly awakened by screams of terror.
You panic and run to your child. Only to find him fast asleep. What just happened? Your child just had a night terror or maybe just a nightmare.
We all have them from time to time. But, what could be so bad in a toddler’s life for them to have a nightmare or night terrors?
If you are a parent chances are you have seen the movie Monsters Inc. The movies where Mike and Sully have a job scaring children in order to provide power to their city.
Cute movie until you realize that a child waking up screaming in the middle of the night is a real thing. Keep reading I will discuss why they happen and how to reduce the probability of them happening.
What Are Night Terrors?
According to WebMD, night terrors are episodes of intense screaming, crying, thrashing, or fear during sleep that happen again and again, usually in children ages 3 to 12.
It is interesting to note that the night terrors usually happen about 90 minutes after your child falls asleep which is considered non-REM sleep.
There is a difference between Night terrors and nightmares. With night terrors you might notice that your child has a rapid heart rate, fast breathing, dilated pupils, or that he is sweating.
Many night terrors last a couple of minutes. However, they may take up to 30 minutes before your toddler relaxes enough to go back to sleep.
If your child is still experiencing a night terror when you go to him, it is possible that they may look confused, not talk, not respond, be screaming, or sit up in bed.
As frightening as you may feel at the time of an episode, rest assured those night terrors are not considered dangerous for your child.
However, a night terror will disrupt his sleep. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
Meanwhile, there are a few things that can be done to help reduce these night terrors in toddlers. Keep reading to find out more.
Stress can be considered a trigger for night terrors. With that said, kids have stress just like adults.
The problems that cause toddlers to stress are sometimes different but, it is still stress.
A weighted blanket can calm your toddler thru a process called deep touch pressure stimulation.
Studies have shown this type of stimulation lowers stress hormone levels and aids in the production of serotonin.
Stick To A Routine
When developing a bedtime routine it is important to be consistent.
Once you find a routine that is satisfactory for you and your child stick to it as long as you can.
When a child knows the routine you reduce undue stress at night.
When setting up your routine make sure to include dental hygiene.
Another thing to note while developing your routine is to keep it short and make it age-appropriate.
Don’t Let Toddler Get Overtired
Allowing your child to get overtired causes undue stress and reduces his ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Most parents will allow their toddler to stay up later on the weekends in hopes of him sleeping in later.
I not sure if this works for you, but, I can tell you from experience it does not work for my grandson.
He has a 30-minute window that he wakes in no matter how late he goes to bed.
The downside to him staying up later is he is really cranky in the mornings.
I have also noticed that he seems to have more restless nights the later I keep him.
Plenty of Rest
Your toddler requires a set amount of sleep each night. Usually about 10 -12 hours depending on his age.
Anything less can prevent normal development in your child.
Lack of sleep can have the same effect as getting overtired. Not enough sleep has been proven to contribute to night terrors in toddlers.
It is important at night to help your toddler stay calm before bed.
Relaxation techniques include a warm bath, a bedtime story, and maybe some deep breathing techniques.
It is important to know that your child can sense your frustrations and your fears.
So it important for you to remain calm as well. By remaining calm, your child will feel more at ease and drift back to sleep faster.
In most cases, your child will not remember the episode from the night before.
Protect Your Toddler
If you noticed that your child is up walking around or flailing around in the bed while experiencing a night terror.
While you may not be able to wake him it is important to protect him.
Placing pillows around dangerous things can help keep him safe.
Try to guide him back to bed even though this might be difficult.
Let A Sleeping Child Rest
If your child falls back asleep or is asleep when you approach him, continue to let him sleep.
By waking him up to see if he is okay might seem like a natural instinct however, all you are doing is taking away from foom of his restful sleep.
Remember he will not remember anyway no matter how soon you wake him.
Caffeine is found in many products other than coffee.
Food products like chocolate, cereal, hot chocolate, pudding, and ice cream contain hidden caffeine that can promote sleeplessness and night terrors
Reduce Screen Time Before Bed
By reducing screen time at night 30 minutes prior to bedtime you can help create a calm environment for your child to sleep in.
For example, turn off the TV, cell phones, and computers to reduce blue screen time.
Blue screen is the light that emits from electronics and it causes brain stimulation which reduces the natural release of Melatonin.
How about White Noise?
White noise in the background can help reduce stress in your toddler.
Again stress is a major contributor to night terrors in toddlers.
By a machine to create a soothing noise in the background will help with calming.
I personally use an Amazon echo dot for my grandson’s room. It will play all night if I want it to.
Night terrors can be prevented by following some of the tips above.
If these don’t work you can try breaking up your child’s sleep. For example, take note of how long after your child goes to bed before the night terrors begin.
Wake your child 15 minutes prior to the expected episode and try to keep them awake for 5 minutes.
Continue this routine for a week and the terrors should subside.
Keep in mind Night terror episodes are short and usually happen over several weeks. Most children will outgrow them.
However, if they get worse or don’t seem to go away talk with your doctor.
Thank you for reading and I hope I was able to leave something for you. If you have any experience that you would like to share or want to leave a comment or a question. Leave them below and I will certainly get back in a timely manner.
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night terror in toddlers