If sleep terrors are a problem for you or your child, here are some things to try:
- Make the environment safe. To help prevent injury, close and lock all windows and exterior doors at night. You might even lock interior doors or place alarms or bells on the doors. Block doorways or stairways with a gate, and move electrical cords or other objects that pose a tripping hazard. If your child has sleep terrors, don't let him or her sleep in a bunk bed. Place any sharp or fragile objects out of reach.
- Get more sleep. Fatigue can contribute to sleep terrors. Try an earlier bedtime or a more regular sleep schedule.
- Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bedtime. Do quiet, calming activities — such as reading books, doing puzzles or soaking in a warm bath — before bed. Meditation or relaxation exercises may help, too.
- Put stress in its place. Identify the things that stress you out, and brainstorm possible ways to handle the stress. If your child seems anxious or stressed, talk about what's bothering him or her.
- Look for a pattern. If your child has sleep terrors, keep a sleep diary. For several nights, note how many minutes after bedtime a sleep terror episode occurs. If the timing is fairly consistent, wake your child about 15 minutes before you expect a sleep terror episode. Keep your child awake for five minutes, and then let him or her fall asleep again.
Above all, be positive. However disruptive, sleep terrors aren't a serious condition — and they usually go away on their own.
Aug. 12, 2011
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- National sleep disorders research plan. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/section5/section5a.html. Accessed June 7, 2011.
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