Night terrors in infants sound horrifying even if the sleeper is older, but it can be positively heartbreaking when you have to watch your baby go through them. A night terror is different from a nightmare. When a nightmare occurs, you wake up and may remember all or parts of the scary dream. But night terrors are sleep disturbances where a baby or child may appear awake with their eyes open. They may flail their arms, sit upright, thrash, cry, scream, or moan. But in this state, they’re actually caught somewhere between sleep and wakefulness. And they are unlikely to remember the occurrence once they’re fully awake and alert. It is scarier for parents who want nothing more than to comfort their child, but the baby won’t know you’re there during the episode which can last for a few minutes or potentially up to an hour.

So what happens during night terrors in babies? Why do they happen? And what can you do about them to ensure you and your baby get a restful night sleep.

 

What Causes Night Terrors in Infants

According to Web MD, night terrors tend to occur in children between the ages of 3 and 12. Most often they’re experienced by younger children as most outgrow the phenomenon. Night terrors in infants usually happen as your child’s body transitions from stages 3 to 4 as they sleep, usually about 90 minutes into their sleep cycle. It’s believed that night terrors tend to run in families and while there is no specific cause, there could be some underlying commonalities such as stressful situations, fever, sleep deprivation, and potentially some medications.

 

What Are The Signs of Baby Night Terrors

The most obvious signs of night terrors in babies is intense crying and the presence of fear. Your baby is asleep during these outbursts, so it may be very difficult for you to wake them. However, night terrors are not remembered, so often the experience is more traumatic for parents than for the babies.

Other signs include increased heart rate, increased breathing, and sweating. During these episodes, as you try to comfort your child, they may not be responsive to your presence. Know that this is not because they can’t be consoled but because they’re not experiencing full wakefulness. Night terrors in infants usually last only a few minutes at a time, though they have been known to take up to 30 minutes or more.

 

How Can You Prevent or Stop Night Terrors in Babies

If your child’s sleep patterns are disrupted significantly, you may want to consult your pediatrician, however in most cases the underlying causes of night terrors in babies will wane over time. But, if there is increased call for concern, your doctor can order tests to ensure that there isn’t something else causes the night terrors or sleep disruption.

For the most part, the best treatment solutions for baby night terrors will be old fashioned home remedies. Make sure their bed and room are safe so they don’t hurt themselves during a night terror episode. Try to eliminate anything that may cause a sleep disturbance, such as lights or sounds, and adhere to a strict bedtime schedule to create a peaceful nighttime routine.

You may also be able to prevent night terrors in infants by developing a regular pattern of interrupting this behavior. Start by noting how long after you put your baby to bed that the sleep terror start. Then, wake them approximately 15 minutes before you expect the baby night terrors to begin. Repeat this for about a week and see if the night terror subside.

The good news for parents is that night terrors in babies is generally a temporary thing and almost all children will outgrow the behavior by the time they reach their teenage years.

Laura Lavoie

Laura M. LaVoie is a freelance writer from Asheville, NC where she enjoys the craft beer scene, the Tiny House movement, general geekry, and making sure she gets a full 8 hours of sleep every night.

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