Could My Child Have Night Terrors?

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  • February 25, 2014

 

Would you like me to answer your baby sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

 

Hi, Kim West, the Sleep Lady and in this video blog, I’m going to answer this mom’s question:

“My daughter is 7 years old and was never a good sleeper. We thought things were getting better for a time but they seemed to be getting worse. It’s extremely rough for her to sleep for a night in her own bed and lately, she’s up several times talking, crying, kicking, et cetera. I realized she’s asleep so she is inconsolable. Sometimes she’ll go back to sleep but lately she’s up again in 15 to 20 minutes. She’s asleep by 9:00 p.m. and up at 6:20 a.m. during the school week.

“An earlier bedtime is difficult as we both work fulltime and get home between 5:30 and 6:00 p.m. After dinner and homework and any activities, 9:00 p.m. is about as early as we can get to sleep. My son who was 5 falls asleep pretty quickly and only wakes occasionally but never with the thrashing, kicking and screaming that my daughter does. Solutions would be helpful as we’re all not getting a full night sleep.”

 

Night Terrors and Sleep Apnea

 

There are two things I want you to talk to your pediatrician or your doctor about:

1. Night terrors, and

2. Sleep apnea.

 

Night Terrors

Toddler NapNight terrors tend to happen in the earlier part of the night (usually the first two hours of sleep), although I must say I have seen it happen to children during the night but the science shows that usually it’s on the first two hours of sleep.
If it is night terrors, the child is still asleep even though they may not look it and their eyes may be open and they are inconsolable. Quite honestly the best thing to do is to do very little. Make sure they’re safe and know that the night terror should subside in 15 to 20 minutes. You may say, “Well but how do we stop this from occurring?” Some of this has to do with family history but the number one cause of night terrors is too late of a bedtime.

I know that you said that 9:00 p.m. is the earliest that she can go to bed. I’m just wondering if, at least for a couple weeks you could see if making a dedicated effort (even if it’s having a quick frozen dinner), and seeing if she can do any homework after school if she is in an after-care program so that you can get her to sleep a little bit earlier to see if it starts to change these potential terrors.

 

Sleep Apnea

 

Stress, fever and sleep apnea can also cause night terrors. I want you to go to the pediatrician and tell them if your child is doing anything like mouth breathing, loud breathing, snoring, sweating during sleep, or is clearly very restless. For example: if there’s kicking and wrestling around and talking to go to sleep. Also bring up any of the other symptoms that are on the list in the medical chapter of Good Night, Sleep Tight, because it could be that she also has obstructive sleep apnea which is causing the night awakenings and also being very, very tired in the morning. And of course, this will affect her at school.

Either way, I want you to go back to her doctor and figure out whether these are night terrors or whether you should rule out obstructive sleep apnea and then make a bedtime plan of action from there.

Gentle Sleep Solutions

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

 

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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