Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

If sleep terrors are a problem for you or your child, here are some strategies to try:

  • Get adequate sleep. Fatigue can contribute to sleep terrors. If you're sleep deprived, try an earlier bedtime and a more regular sleep schedule. Sometimes a short nap may help. If possible, avoid sleep-time noises or other stimuli that could interrupt sleep.
  • 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. Make the bedroom comfortable and quiet for sleep.
  • 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 put alarms or bells on them. Block doorways or stairways with a gate, and move electrical cords or other objects that pose a tripping hazard. Avoid using bunk beds. Place any sharp or fragile objects out of reach, and lock up all weapons.
  • 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. A mental health professional can help.
  • Offer comfort. If your child has a sleep terror episode, consider simply waiting it out. It may be distressing to watch, but it won't harm your child. You might cuddle and gently soothe 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 shortly stop on its own.
  • 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, anticipatory awakenings may help.
July 21, 2017
References
  1. Sateia M. Sleep terrors. In: International Classification of Sleep Disorders. 3rd ed. Darien, Ill.: American Academy of Sleep Medicine; 2014. http://www.aasmnet.org/EBooks/ICSD3. Accessed May 11, 2017.
  2. Parasomnias. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/sleep-and-wakefulness-disorders/parasomnias. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  3. 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://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed May 9, 2017.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Parasomnias. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2016.
  5. Kotagal S. Sleepwalking and other parasomnias in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  6. Foldvary-Schaefer N. Disorders of arousal from non-rapid eye movement sleep in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  7. Fleetham JA, et al. Parasomnias. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2014;186:E273.
  8. Olson EJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 18, 2017.