Treatment for infrequent sleep terrors isn't usually necessary.
During your child's sleep terror, simply wait it out. It may be distressing to watch, but it does not harm the child. You might gently restrain your child and try to get him or her back into bed. Speak softly and calmly. Shaking your child or shouting may make things worse. Usually the episode will eventually stop on its own.
Treatment may be needed if the sleep terrors cause significant disruption or problems with daytime function or threaten safety. Treatment options include:
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- Treating an underlying condition. If the sleep terrors are associated with an underlying medical or mental health condition or another sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea, treatment is aimed at the underlying problem.
- Improving sleep habits. Addressing issues such as too little sleep may help reduce the incidence of sleep terrors.
- Addressing stress. If stress or anxiety seems to be contributing to the sleep terrors, your doctor may suggest meeting with a therapist or counselor. Cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnosis, biofeedback and relaxation therapy may help.
- Medication. Medication is rarely used to treat sleep terrors, particularly for children. If necessary, however, use of benzodiazepines may be effective.
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- 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.
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