Parents of children with night terrors often feel like there’s nothing they can really do but stand by and wish the problem away. But at every stage of a night terror, there are steps you can take to minimize risk and lessen the toll it can take on your child. These tips for what to do before, during, and after a night terror should empower you take charge of the situation. We hope these help you and your little one face bedtime together with confidence.
Create a Safe Space
A cozy, relaxing bedroom environment is a great way to improve your child’s sleep, but it’s important to create a space that’s safe, too. Pick up toys on the floor that could be tripped on, and clear objects from the nightstand that might get knocked over. If your child is still a toddler, you might consider installing a railing on the bed so they can’t fall out. If you’re concerned about your child sleepwalking during night terrors, fasten a gate at the bedroom door or at the top of the stairs. You may also find it helpful to have a bell or alarm system attached to the bedroom door so you can respond quickly if your child has gotten out of bed.
Educate Caregivers, Visitors, and Family Members
It’s a good idea to explain your child’s night terrors to babysitters, overnight guests, and other family members. This will not only ensure they know what to do if your child has a night terror, but also make the episode a little less scary for those who have never seen a night terror in action before.
Let the Night Terror Run Its Course
We know that this is difficult, but it’s important that you don’t try to wake your child or calm them down during a night terror. This kind of interference may increase the length or strength of the night terror rather than alleviate their fears. Once you’re sure your child isn’t in danger of getting hurt, stay with them and wait for the storm to pass.
Keep Yourself Calm
Watching your child experience a night terror can be harrowing for a parent, but try your best to stay calm and use a gentle, reassuring voice. Don’t try to hug your child or force physical contact. If you can, keep track of how long the night terror lasts or if there’s anything that sets this night apart from other nights. Did your child go to bed later than usual? Did they eat a big meal right before bed? Any unusual lights or sounds in the room? These details may come in handy if your doctor asks for more information.
Don’t Hash It Out the Next Morning
You can set the tone for how your child thinks of night terrors. Children usually don’t remember night terrors the next morning. Asking a lot of questions or acting anxious or uncomfortable might signal that something is wrong, and in turn make your child anxious about bedtime.
Review Your Child’s Sleep Routine
It may be helpful to take another look at your child’s sleep routine, including wake and bedtimes and pre-bedtime habits. Managing the activities and environments surrounding sleep is one of the most important things you can do to help your child sleep safe and sound.
Seeing your child endure night terrors is always trying, but knowing what to do at each stage will help put you back in control. That’s why we created the Lully Sleep Guardian, so you and your family can get the safe and sound sleep you deserve.
Still have questions about what to do during each stage of a night terror? Tweet them to us at @lullysleep.