Hello!

I am having a beautiful dream. The sun is shining and there’s unlimited pale ale. My footy team has just won the grand final and I am riding with the premiership cup and the pale ale into the clear blue sky. Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy are there too. They chirp melodiously as we ascend to the heavens.

Why doesn’t the blue one have any clothes?

A demonic scream rudely shatters my serenity. My Dad senses tell me: ‘son in trouble!’

Arriving at his room, he’s distressed. The covers are kicked off, he’s frantically wriggling around and making a sharp, intense cry.

Being the world’s greatest detective: I conclude it’s a bad nightmare. I try to gently wake him. He responds and starts talking to me. The words are real, but they are jumbled and non-nonsensical (like a Michael Bay movie). The whole thing is weird and noisy (like a Michael Bay movie), but it’s over in five minutes. I put it down to too much In The Night Garden. That stuff is hardcore and will mess up anyone.

A few nights later it happens again. Except this time my nightmare CPR is useless. My son yelps, opens his eyes, talks, sweats, kicks and lashes out at me. I think his head even rotates 360 degrees and he says something about my mother’s attempts to make friends in hell.

My mother does what in where? 

I take myself to my happy place. Makka Pakka gives me a rock and I share Iggle Piggle’s blankie, but it won’t work. My son’s in complete meltdown mode and I am useless, clueless and very tired. This episode lasts over a decade.



Like all the world’s problems, they are best solved on the Internet. I do some research and learn that my son is having night terrors: a sleep disruption that occurs during the early period of deep sleep. The disruption causes terror and the symptoms are much more dramatic than nightmares. 

In less scientific terms, it’s the Godzilla of all nightmares.

Here’s what you need to know about night terrors:

Age for night terrors

Generally between 3-12 years for kids, 20-30 for adults (also the prime years for In the Night Garden viewing. Coincidence? I think not).

Potential symptoms 

Screaming, rapid breathing and heart rate, lashing out (punching, kicking, thrashing limbs), confusion, sweating.

Frequency

  • The prevalence of night terrors isn’t agreed upon (somewhere between 1% and 40%).
  • Episodes can occur over a few days/weeks or multiple times in an evening.
  • Episodes can last a couple of minutes up to 40 minutes.

Difference between terrors and nightmares

  • Terrors occur during early, deep sleep.
  • They will not remember night terrors in the morning.
  • They may appear awake and alert, but will be inconsolable.

What to do

  • Despite the symptoms list looking like that of a bad break-up, it’s important to know that night terrors don’t harm your child.
  • Your first reaction is to try and wake your child to comfort them. Don’t. If you do wake them they will be confused and will be harder to settle.
  • Instead, try and sit it out, making sure they don’t hurt themselves. It’s tough, I know, but once they’ve calmed down you can tuck them in and they’ll generally settle.
  • Long-term they are likely to grow out of night terrors. If they last for prolonged periods you should have a chat with a paediatrician or those trolls from the Frozen movie.

Have your kids experienced any night terrors? How have you handled? Please SHARE in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • I’ve seen it by kids in an institute, but not by my own.

    Reply

  • My friends have three kids and each one suffers from these. It’s terrifying to see a child so freaked out

    Reply

  • Night terrors truly are horrible. I’m so blessed that my kids never had them.

    Reply

  • Definitely DO NOT WAKE THEM! The first time I experienced a night terror with my eldest daughter I copped a black eye from her lashing out. Now if it happens I just monitor what she does and try and guide her back to bed safely.

    Reply

  • I think my 11 month old had a night terror (or just a bad dream). He started screaming after he was asleep and wasn’t settled by cuddles – which is unusual. Wouldn’t even suck his dummy. He seemed asleep still. He loves outside so my husband walked him outside and back, he then calmed down. So hard to tell if it was a bad dream or something else.
    Thanks for the article! Reassuring to know we are not alone


    • yeah horrible the first time that you go through this

    Reply

  • My son sleep walked, it was so scary the first time, but i gently guided him back to bed and reminded myself to lock all doors and windows.

    Reply

  • My little 4 year old girl has them. She screams, moves around in the bed and is totally inconsolable. They last about 10 minutes and then she just suddenly calms down, lies down and goes back to sleep, completely unaware. There isn\’t anything you can do really besides be there and wait until they pass. The 10 minutes feel like forever. She normally gets them when she is ill. She never remembers in the morning. Whereas when she has nightmares, she can recall them in the morning and is definitely awake when she calls out in the night.
    My Mum tells me stories of my night terrors and they sound exactly the same. I also had them when i was ill as a child. I have a vague memory of one as an older child and I can remember feeling panicky, similar to a panic attack.
    Hope your little ones don\’t have them or don\’t get many.

    Reply

  • My 5 1/2 old daughter has suffered from them. She is so distraught. Sings out for me (Mum) and when I get there she doesn’t want me there and tries to kick me away. I reassure her she is safe and all is ok. I then silently pray. I pray that she settles soon and that God can take her bad dreams away. We are unsure where it has come from. She was slightly developmentally delayed. It hasn’t happened since last year which is good.

    Reply

  • Oh my gosh… NO! I hope he doesn’t get these.. I think I’ll be more freaked out than him!

    Reply

  • ok thanks for this one

    Reply

  • I have been lucky enough to not have experienced night terrors by my kids. Lots of humourous sleep walking episodes. Lol.

    Reply

  • it s good to read these things good

    Reply

  • Great advice, thank you!

    Reply

  • I can promise you that The Night Garden audience is below 3. Age 12 doesn’t even get a look in. My daughter, 4 has had night terrors. And yes, I at first, then we wanted to hug her, and reassure her, but this seemed to agitate her. Now, help we just watch and wait until the night terror passes.

    Reply

  • Good to read, some great suggestions on how to help them when they have night terrors. My little girl had one or two episodes of this and I felt so helpless. Thanks for sharing the information.

    Reply

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