You wake up to your child screaming bloody murder in the middle of the night and go to their room only to find that they are screaming for you and don’t seem to know you are there. It’s almost paralyzing to a parent when your little one does this for the first time and you are helpless to fix the problem so what causes night terrors to happen to your little one and how can you fix it? To help you understand what causes night terrors I have broken it down for you and offer a few solutions to help get you through the episodes when they occur.
I know where you are coming from and have dealt with this for a long time now so I can tell you what seems to be the cause of night terrors and what you can do to help as scary and little talked about as this is more parents are coming forward about this issue so know that you are not alone in this.
Our little guy has suffered from night terrors since he was 6 months old and though they are better some days you never really know when he is going to have one. It’s frustrating and heartbreaking at the same time for parents and your baby usually is tired and grumpy the next day from not sleeping well.
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What Causes Night Terrors
I have done a lot of research on this subject and up until lately no one has written a lot on this subject, in fact, a year and a half ago there literally were three articles and no help on the subject. Fortunately, we have come a long way since then in understanding what is happening to our children in the middle of the night and why we can’t wake them up.
What causes night terrors seem to be from sleep patterns and how they transition from REM sleep to a deep sleep called delta sleep this can be an hour after going to sleep or a few it all depends on the person but usually in the first hours of stage 3-4 non-rapid eye movement sleep.
When the sleep pattern switches causing slight arousal as you go into another sleep pattern this can trigger confusion for your child and they become scared and disoriented and see things like monsters, scary situations, or people that make them scream in terror to get away.
According to wikipedia.org: The universal feature of night terrors is unconscionability, very similar to that of a panic attack. During night terror bouts, people are usually described as “bolting upright” with their eyes wide open and a look of fear and panic on their faces.
Signs of A Night Terror
They will often scream. Furthermore, they will usually sweat, exhibit rapid breathing, and have a rapid heart rate. In some cases, individuals are likely to have even more elaborate motor activity, such as a thrashing of limbs—which may include punching, swinging, or fleeing motions.
There is a sense that the individuals are trying to protect themselves and or escape from a possible threat of bodily injury. Although people may seem to be awake during a night terror, they will appear confused, be inconsolable and or unresponsive to attempts to communicate with them, and may not recognize others familiar to them.
Occasionally, when a person with a night terror is awakened, they will lash out at the one awakening them, which can be dangerous to that individual. Most people who experience this do not remember the incident the next day.
When Night Terrors Can Happen
Night terrors can happen during nap time as well and occur in 1-6% of children so it really isn’t that common for children to even have them. The ages for night terrors seem to be set at 3-12 higher in males than females. In our son’s case, he has had them since he was 8 months old which is very unusual and harder to find information on since few have experienced this with such a young child.
Some say it is brought on by traumatic events during the day, no nap or overly tired child, it could run in the family or it could be linked to asthma or narcolepsy but it doesn’t seem to be pinpointed very well with these.
I have tried changing what food our little one eats to see if it correlates with maybe an upset stomach and gas pains like his old doctor told us and this did not work for us. The one thing I have noticed is he is more likely to have a night terror if he didn’t nap during the day but this also doesn’t hold true all the time.
Solution For Night Terrors
Not knowing what causes night terrors makes it harder to get a solution but there are things you can do to help deal with them and keep night terrors from occurring as often. From what I have seen in our son is that he has them less frequently when sticking to a schedule every day and when his sleep is disturbed it seems to trigger night terrors. If you have tried everything listed and are just frustrated skip to the Lully Sleep Guardian and order it because we know it works.
- Try to have your little one take a nap every day and go to bed at the same time at night
- No TV before bed and read fun books or do something quiet before bed
- Always talk through emotional situations that may have occurred during the day so your child can understand and process it better
- Don’t allow them to watch anything that may be scary in movies or on TV
- Eat dinner at least an hour before bedtime so that you can avoid any kind of acid reflux that could cause it
If your child still has episodes every night you could try to wake them gently about an hour or two after they fall asleep (before they have rapid eye movement) to get them to transition into REM sleep which should help avoid the sleep terror or use the Lully Sleep Guardian
I highly recommend using this sleep guardian even if night terrors happen a little less frequently just to avoid the emotional toll that it takes on us as parents having to watch or hear these terrors occurring.
This is an awesome item to have and is super simple to use all you do is place it under your child’s mattress and it will record your child’s sleep patterns and vibrate at just the right moment to avoid the sleep terrors. You download an app to your phone so that you can see the progress they are making and it gives you such peace of mind!!
I am so glad that someone created one of these because it works and it’s such a relief finely something that works without having to try a million different things!!!
Use it for 4 weeks consistently to reduce night terrors up to 80% and if your child only has them a few days a week then it will work like a charm for you. It is pediatrician recommended and safe to use.
Final Thoughts On What Causes Night Terrors
I hope that after reading this post you feel better about your child’s night terrors and what causes them. I know it’s tuff to have a little one go through them and just breaks your heart and I am right there with you, I cry every time he has one.
The solution to your child’s night terrors is to get a Guardian and use it every night so that you don’t have to suffer through these episodes that kill you as a parent and make you feel helpless, once you get one set it up, download the app and watch the magic happen. You won’t be sorry mama I promise!!
You are not alone in dealing with night terrors and you can comment or email me anytime if you need support or just to talk about it I’m here for you!
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8 thoughts on “What Causes Night Terrors In Babies And Toddlers”
I wish I had read this when my son was little, he had terrors up until he was 9yrs, thankfully her grew out of them, love this post.
Thank you Angela, I am so glad that you liked it! I wish that they had more information on night terrors back then too! Even now it is hard to find but at least some people are talking about it and it is more understood. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that with your son, it is the worst feeling for a mom to not be able to help her little one when he is screaming and so frightened like that! I wish you could have read this post then as well.
My son (now 24) had night terrors and chronic leg pain during most of his youth. It took us years to finally determine his night terrors happened when ever I gave him acetabulum (Tylenol or generic store brand of). I later found a reference in a book by a doctor stating the same. I only wish I had known this years earlier. He’s 24 – and still has roaming pain in his legs – doctors can’t determine why.
I am so sorry that you had to go through that and your son suffered for so long from night terrors 🙁
I hope that he will find an answer for why he has roaming pain in his legs still. Has he tried taking CoQ10 or Tumeric sometimes this helps for pain?
Also, tart cherry juice works along with these and a lot of people I know have found relief without having to take drugs.
Reading your story sounds just like mine… I have no one to discuss it with and it’s so hard because my little one isn’t getting sleep and neither am I! She has had them since she was 6months and now she is 22 months … every night is a surprise… usually she will wake up about 2 hours from the time she goes to sleep for her first Terror for the night … then it’s up and down from there … I’m so tired… she’s not sleep trained so I don’t know if that makes a difference too
I am so sorry that you are going through this, I know how hard it is when you don’t get sleep and can’t fix what’s wrong.
Sleep training her might help but it’s not guaranteed, you could try waking her gently just before she has a night terror (the night terror happens 2 hours after she goes to sleep wake her a few minutes before so that she transitions into REM sleep. You could also try the lully sleep guardian if nothing seems to help as it knows when she will transition and can wake her at the right moment.
My son outgrew it around 2.5 and she might also but not getting sleep and waking all the time isn’t helping either one of you right now, it could take a while before she outgrows it. Try what is listed under solutions and hopefully something will work for you.
We went through night terrors with my daughter for a solid 3.5 years. It was heart wrenching and exhausting all at the same time. Still to this day whenever she gets really angry at something she rubs her feet together and up her shins. Such a weird habit. During the night terrors she would do the same thing and wake up with blood all over her legs and feet. So sad! I thought about trying the sleep pad you’re talking about, but never actually followed through with it. She still has occasional “moments” of night terrors at 4.5 years old, but much better overall. I just put my kiddos together in the same room to see if that will be the final solution to either kid waking up at night. So far it’s been exhausting still due to giggles and fighting over blankets, but I’m hopeful!
I am so sorry that you had to go through night terrors with your daughter, it is so heart wrenching 🙁
My son has nightmares now that he is 4.5 so we are still dealing with things as well. Hopefully having your children together at night will help make it better!
I had that thought too when my little one is a bit older.
Sleep issues like this are so hard especially when you are so exhausted from dealing with it every few days. Let me know if I can help in any way.