Sleep Series :: Surviving Night Terrors

sleepThis is the first post in our Sleep Series.  Fellow moms trying to help you rest easy!

You’ve just dozed off to sleep after a long day when your child wakes with an alarming panicked scream.  You run into their room to find them still asleep but thrashing around screaming.  If you don’t know what you are dealing with, Night Terrors can be scary.  I am by no means a medical professional, but we have been struggling with night terrors for the better part of two years.  It has been a long and exhausting process, but my husband and I have finally found some methods that have helped calm our daughter during an episode as well as ways to minimize the frequency of them.

What are Night Terrors

Night Terrors are reoccurring episodes of strong fear while your child is still asleep.  Usually night terrors occur a few hours after your child has fallen asleep for the night and are accompanied with thrashing about, screaming, elevated heartrate and/or sweating. 

What to do During an Episode

As a parent, your main goal during a night terror is to protect your child from any accidental harm.  We have put a bedrail on our daughter’s bed so that when she thrashes about she doesn’t fall off her bed.  Upon hearing her screams run into her room to soothe her.  I try and hold her arms and legs still so that she doesn’t hit or kick anything.  I never try and wake her, but instead make soothing shushing noises like I did when she was a baby and stroke her hair.  It usually only takes a minute or two for her to calm herself and fall back to sleep. 

How to minimize the frequency

I can’t say we have been successful in curing my daughter’s night terrors.  We have, however, found some methods that have been helpful in minimizing the frequency of them.  The first thing we did was establish a Bedtime routine.  We try to have our daughter in bed each night by 8:30pm.  At about 8:00pm we start getting in pajamas, make sure she uses the bathroom and brushes teeth.  Once that’s done we say our prayers as a family and then my husband takes her to bed.  They have a little routine of singing 5 songs and then he kisses her goodnight and she goes to sleep.  Your routine could include books or sound machines, but whatever you do, make sure it is consistent. 

Another thing I have found helpful is using products at night with soothing scents such as lavender.  I have never been one to buy into the essential oil business, but my friend suggested lavender essential oil at bedtime, and I have to say it works!  If essential oils aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other lavender products on the market that should work just the same.  We’ve used lavender bubble bath and lotions and I’ve even seen lavender pillow mist. 

Limit sugar intake throughout the day. The thing about night terrors is that it’s all trial and error.  I have watched for patterns and noticed on days where my daughter has had a lot of sugar, she doesn’t sleep well.  I try to limit my daughter to one treat a day.  Obviously on special occasions such as birthdays or holidays, this can be tricky but on average this works well. 

Again, I am not a medical professional, but these are just some of the methods that have worked well for us. I hope that giving them a try will work for you and your family and that you will be back to a normal sleep pattern in no time.  If you are concerned about your child’s sleep and these tips aren’t working for you, consult your child’s pediatrician so that you and your child will be able to rest easy.


  1. My oldest started having night terrors at age 3 (she’s now 9). Not sure it’s related but the night terrors later turned into migraines. For us, we figured out that removing dairy from her diet majorly helped and she hasn’t had a migraine or a night terror since. Sounds crazy but it worked for us!


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