That Sudden Blood Curdling Scream, Drenched with Sweat and Eyes Lost In Confusion
Understanding children with Night Terrors

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[May 31, 2014]  Parents are settling in for the night.  All the children are asleep in their beds when all of a sudden you hear it for the first time.

Your child awakens in a panicked state, screaming as if he is in excruciating pain, you run in to his room to find him drenched in sweat and that most disturbing "looking through you" as you desperately try to rescue him from his trauma.  He does not react.  What is going on! Well , you have just entered into Night Terror world.  Kerrin Edmonds Family Sleep Institute, Certified Child Sleep Consultant and Founder of Meet You in Dreamland shares some helpful facts to better understand what night terrors are, who might be destined to get them and what can you do about it.

Fact 1:  When Do They Occur:

Usually a couple hours after falling asleep when our children's bodies are making their way out of a deep stage of sleep. The body is basically stuck for a short time, exhibiting characteristics of both sleeping and waking. 

Fact 2:  Do Children Remember These Episodes?  

Nope, they are in the same family as sleep talking and sleep walking so even though your child appears to be awake he's actually sleeping. 

Fact 3:  What Causes Night Terrors:  

Well if it runs in your family then your child might also experience them if the triggers that start them activate it.  

Fact 4:  What Are Some of the Triggers and How Do We Counteract?

Being over tired! This is most likely the case for children who have them periodically. Usually by adjusting bedtime a bit earlier, even by 30 minutes, can help keep the body in a well-rested state.

Sickness and medication can also cause night terrors. It is very common for episodes to occur when children are running a fever. Usually once the sickness passes the episodes do as well. 

Upsets in the normal schedule is another reason for night terrors. It is quite common to have episodes when the normal schedule has been changed or big events are happening such as; school starting, a birthday, the holidays, family hardships, vacation, and even having company or family visit.  Making the bedtime earlier can help keep these terrors at bay.

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Fact 5: When It's Happening What Do We Do?

The best plan of action is to do as little as possible and let that terror ride itself out.  Stay close by to make sure that your child is safe and can't hurt himself.  Remember he's asleep and completely unaware.  Waking him could actually frighten him and trigger another terror.  

Night terrors are farily common and most children grow out of them before their pre-teen years. Knowing the triggers can help you prepare for your child's next episode and being proactive and making the appropriate changes to counter act them could keep them at bay or minimize the duration.  As always if you are concerned about your child's night terrors or are unsure if they are night terrors its best to discuss it with your pediatrician. 


Kerrin Edmonds is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant from San Luis Obispo's North County. Growing up with a Mom who owned and ran her own preschool, as well as being the oldest of three kids, Kerrin has always been around children from the start. But her passion for babies and more particularly, for baby sleep issues, was born with her first baby. After weeks of crying and sleepless nights, she felt there had to be a better way……So she started her journey to a better sleep for her whole family.  She is a certified Child Sleep Consultant through The Family Sleep Institute and Founder of Meet You In Dreamland, a baby and child sleep consulting practice, workign with the whole family to get everyone sleeping the way they deserve to.  You can find out more at her website at


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