A night terror,
called confusional arousal or sleep terror, is not a dream. It is
a state, how a baby or
child feels and reacts when waking up from a deep
sleep. This makes it very different from a nightmare.
Confusional arousal is usually harmless
and does not disturb baby much. But it may be frightening for you and
disrupt naps and nights. Good to note also that these are not seizures.
More common from 4 years and up, night terrors can happen from the age of 18 months old and some
parents of even younger
babies have reported them too, though they've not necessarily been medically verified. If you'd like to read more about night terrors, have a look at this article and this one.
How to recognize night terrors
Sleep terrors happen a
couple of hours after going to sleep.
will seem awake with
eyes wide open and often be panicky, and scream.
She'll appear confused,
sometimes anxious and may sweat and breathe
more heavily than usual.
It will probably be more
scary for you than for your baby. She won't even remember nor will she
notice you or react to you.
After a couple of minutes, she'll go back and drift off again - or in
wake up normally for a night feed.
Help your baby sleep well anyway
To avoid night
terrors, make sure your baby doesn't get overtired:
fatigue is an important trigger.
What you can do:
Go into her room straight away. Don't be
frightened because she doesn't react to you. Do not try to wake her up
either but make sure she
does not get hurt when trying to sit, stand or moving arms
and legs about. Tuck her in once she's calmed down and went back to
your baby has very frequent terrors, you can try to break the pattern with the
For a few nights (weeks if they are not
that frequent) write down at what time the terrors
start. You will
normally discover a
certain pattern and a time slot in which a terror typically occurs.
Then, for a few nights (even if you are not sure there will be a
terror) gently wake up your baby about 20-30
minutes before that time slot.
Sit up with her for a few
moments, talk to her softly and then put her back down to sleep again.
If she is not easily awakened like this, you can try changing her
diaper but avoid 'too exciting' activities or it may be difficult to
get her back to sleep again ...
This short wake time can help change
her sleep pattern and that can avoid the confusional
arousal after a while.
Consult your doctor or pediatrician if the
continue to be very frequent.