For children, sleep terrors tend to decrease by the time they're teenagers. However, if you have concerns about safety or underlying conditions for you or your child, you may want to consult your doctor, who may refer you to a sleep specialist.
It's a good idea to prepare for your appointment. Here's some information to help you.
What you can do
- Keep a sleep diary for two weeks before your appointment to help your doctor understand what's causing the sleep terrors. In the morning, you record as much as you know of the bedtime ritual, quality of sleep, and so on. At the end of the day, you record behaviors that may affect sleep, such as caffeine consumption and any medications taken.
- Make a list of any symptoms you or your child is experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for the appointment.
- Bring key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or other supplements that you or your child takes, and the dosages.
- Bring a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember what the doctor says.
- Make a list of questions to ask your doctor to help make the most of your time together.
For sleep terrors, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing these symptoms?
- What are other possible causes?
- What kinds of tests are needed?
- Is the condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What's the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- Are there any restrictions that need to be followed?
- Do you recommend seeing a specialist?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, including:
Aug. 12, 2014
- When did the sleep terrors begin?
- How often do the sleep terrors occur?
- Have there been sleep problems in the past?
- Does anyone else in your family have sleep problems?
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- In-lab sleep study. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. http://www.sleepeducation.com/disease-management/in-lab-sleep-study/overview. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Goldstein CA. Parasomonias. Disease-a-Month. 2011;57:364.
- Sleep-wake disorders. American Psychiatric Association. http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/Sleep-wake%20Disorders%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf. Accessed May 30, 2014.
- Carter KA, et al. Common sleep disorders in children. American Family Physician. 2014;89:368.
- Haupt M, et al. Just a scary dream? A brief review of sleep terrors, nightmares, and rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. Pediatric Annals. 2013;42:211.
- Non-rapid eye movement sleep arousal disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. http://www.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed June 3, 2014.
- Silber MH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 23, 2014.
- Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 1, 2014.
- Kotagal S (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 6, 2014.