Toddler Night Terrors

It was 10:30pm last night and a scream peirced the house.


My heart launched into my throat and sank at the same time. Harry was having a night terror. I ran into his room and found him thrashing in his bed, eyes tightly shut as he screamed. I sat by his bed and attempted to rub his back, his chest, any body part that was near me as he twisted and turned and screamed. I “shhhh”ed and whispered softly that he was okay, that Momma was here. He didn’t hear any of it because he was still soundly asleep.

I felt helpless. My little boy seemed so legitimately frightened, unable to calm down or be consoled. I considered picking him up but remembered the last time I tried that and the black eye I nearly got. Instead, I sat and talked softly and prayed it would pass. I knew I couldn’t wake him up without shaking him or yelling, which would only scare him more. So I sat and waited it out with my heart pounding, like so many other nights.

While it seemed like such a terrible thing, I kept reminding myself that he wouldn’t remember any of it and that he was safe. That it was just a part of growing up for some kids and it’s harder on the parents who DO remember the screams.

  • image-3434 1 of 12
    What causes night terrors? What should you do when your child has one? Click through to find out more about this toddler terror.
  • Symptoms of a night terror 2 of 12
    Symptoms of a night terror
    Scream or shout. Kick and thrash. Sweat, breathe heavily and have a racing pulse. Be hard to awaken. Be inconsolable. Sit up or get out of bed. Stare wide-eyed (but he's still not awake!).
  • What causes night terrors? 3 of 12
    What causes night terrors?
    Most night terrors occur in the first third of the sleep cycle (which is why they seem to happen a few hours after bedtime). This is between the Stage 3 REM cycle and Stage 4 REM cycle. Factors for night terrors are sleep depravation, stress, anxiety, lights and noise, or sleep apnea.
    For more on sleep apnea: Toddler snoring on
    Source: WebMD
  • Only a small percentage have night terrors. 4 of 12
    Only a small percentage have night terrors.
    They are most common in children between the ages of 4-6 years old and usually outgrown by adolescence.
  • So what’s the biggest difference? 5 of 12
    So what's the biggest difference?
    A child will remember a nightmare. She will NOT remember a night terror.
  • He won’t wake up. 6 of 12
    He won't wake up.
    The biggest difference between a nightmare and a night terror is that unlike a nightmare, a child suffering a night terror will not wake up. In better news, he won't remember the terror in the morning.
  • How long do they last? 7 of 12
    How long do they last?
    Most last 1-2 minutes, but some can last upwards to an hour.
    Source: WebMD
  • What do I do as a parent? 8 of 12
    What do I do as a parent?
    It's tempting to wake him because he seems so terrified, but it's usually best to leave him be as long as he can't hurt himself. Most of the time you won't be able to wake him from that deep sleep and if you are successful, he'll be disoriented, confused, and scared and have a harder time getting back to sleep.
  • It’s best to just offer comfort 9 of 12
    It's best to just offer comfort
    While it's heartbreaking to watch, it's best to just sit by the bed and offer any comfort possible - back rubs, a stuffed animal, making sure he can't hurt himself.
  • What risks do night terrors pose? 10 of 12
    What risks do night terrors pose?
    Very little aside from sleepiness during the day or bruises from thrashing out.
  • Should you call the pediatrician? 11 of 12
    Should you call the pediatrician?
    There's really not much the doctor can do. Unless the child is hurting himself or disrupting the entire family, it's just a course that needs to pass.
  • Let others know 12 of 12
    Let others know
    If you have a night time babysitter, be sure he or she is aware of the terrors and what to do in the event of one.

photos: istockphoto


Article Posted 4 years Ago

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