Mayo Clinic: My 7-year-old daughter has sleep terrors. What
causes this, and when can we expect them to be finished?
hard to pinpoint why some children experience sleep terrors
and others donít, but fatigue and stress seem to be frequent
triggers. Anyone can have a sleep terror, but they are most
common in children younger than 12. In most cases, they stop
by the time a child reaches middle school or high school.
terrors, also called night terrors, are occasional episodes of
screaming and flailing while a person is still asleep. In some
cases, sleep terrors may involve sleepwalking. Although the
behavior that happens during a sleep terror can put a child at
risk for physical harm from falling or hitting something, a
sleep terror itself isnít harmful and doesnít pose any
health risks. Most of the time, children donít remember
having a sleep terror. Because of that, sleep terrors are
usually more upsetting for other members of the household than
they are for the child who actually has them.
terrors tend to run in families. So if a parent had them as a
child, then his or her children are at an increased risk for
them, too. Sleep terrors are most likely to happen when a
child is overtired or feeling a significant amount of stress.
Sleeping in new surroundings or in a loud or noisy environment
may contribute to sleep terrors. In children, fevers may
sometimes trigger a sleep terror.
the best steps you can take to help prevent sleep terrors is
to make sure your child is well-rested. A regular bedtime
routine that is relaxing and doesnít involve any electronics
ó including cellphones, TV, computers and video games ó
also can help. Read books together, play a quiet game, or
spend time talking to help your child wind down before bed. If
a child doesnít seem to be able to get enough sleep at
night, consider a daytime nap. As much as possible, keep the
stress level in your home low, and help your child work
through stressful or upsetting situations.
reduce the risk of a child hurting himself or herself during a
sleep terror, create a safe bedroom environment. Place sharp,
heavy or fragile objects out of your childís reach at night.
Securely lock doors and windows. Put gates across stairways.
Children who have sleep terrors shouldnít sleep on the top
level of a bunk bed.
sleep terror happens, stay with your child until it is
finished. If necessary, gently restrain the child from getting
out of bed, or lead the child back to bed. Speak softly and
calmly. Donít try to wake your child. The phase of sleep
during which a sleep terror happens makes it unlikely that a
child will respond to attempts to wake him or her.
or shaking a child during a night terror could make the
episode last longer. In most cases, a sleep terror will stop
on its own. Never punish a child for having a sleep terror or
threaten punishment if it happens again. That only increases a
childís stress and could worsen the situation.
usually isnít necessary for sleep terrors. But if they
significantly disrupt your home regularly, make an appointment
with your childís health care provider. He or she can help
evaluate the situation. In rare cases, a child who has
frequent sleep terrors may benefit from an evaluation with a
sleep medicine specialist. In most cases, however, sleep
terrors fade away as a child ages, without any medical