Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Night Terrors

    When to Seek Medical Care

    Sleep disruption is a parent's most frequent concern during the first years of a child’s life. Half of all children develop a disrupted sleep pattern serious enough to warrant a visit to the pediatrician. During his or her evaluation, the doctor may also be able to exclude other possible disorders that might cause night terrors.

    Exams and Tests for Night Terrors

    Usually, a complete history and a physical exam are sufficient to diagnose night terrors.

    If other disorders are suspected, additional tests may be useful to exclude them:

    • An electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain activity, may be performed if a seizure disorder is suspected.
    • Polysomnography (a combination of tests used to check for adequate breathing while asleep) may be done if a breathing disorder is suspected.
    • CT scans and MRIs are usually not necessary.

    Home Remedies for Night Terrors

    Parents might take the following precautions at home:

    • Make the child’s room safe to try to prevent the child from being injured during an episode.
    • Eliminate all sources of sleep disturbance.
    • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine and wake-up time.

    Medical Treatment for Night Terrors

    Unfortunately, no adequate treatment exists for night terrors. Management primarily consists of educating family members about the disorder and reassuring them that the episodes are not harmful.

    In severe cases in which daily activities (for example, school performance or peer or family relations) are affected, tricyclic antidepressants (such as imipramine) may be used as a temporary treatment.

    Next Steps & Follow-Up

    If it helps to alleviate your child's anxiety - or yours - make an appointment to talk to his doctor.

    Night Terror Prevention

    If your child has night terrors, you can try to interrupt her sleep in order to prevent one. Here is how to do it:

    • First, note how many minutes the night terror occurs from your child’s bedtime.
    • Then, awaken your child 15 minutes before the expected night terror, and keep her awake and out of bed for five minutes. You may want to take your child to the bathroom to see if she will urinate.
    • Continue this routine for a week.

    Today on WebMD

    fatigued senior woman
    We’ve got 10 tips to show you how
    Man snoring in bed
    Know your myths from your facts.
     
    Young woman sleeping
    What do your dreams say about you?
    woman eith hangover
    It’s common, and really misunderstood.
     
    Young woman sleeping
    Quiz
    Cannot sleep
    Video
     
    child sitting in bed
    Article
    Woman with insomnia
    Quiz
     
    nurse sleeping
    ARTICLE
    Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
    Slideshow
    Pain at Night
    ARTICLE