How to help your kid through night terrors

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How to help your kid through night terrors

Some parents confuse nightmares with night terrors, but they're actually quite different. So night terrors tend to happen within the first two hours of going to sleep. And what's interesting about night terrors is your child's eyes may be open, and they may be screaming for you. But they are not awake. They are actually still asleep. And they are not dreaming. They are going from non-REM to REM and they got a little tripped. And they woke up and they are usually inconsolable. They can last anywhere from 5-20 minutes, which is very scary to watch in your child, especially because they don't seem to recognize you or know what's going on. And what you need to do when this happens is you need to do as little as possible. Because actually interacting with them, touching them, getting them out can make it last longer. So make sure they're safe and that they're attended to and everything's okay. You probably want to stay with them because it's really hard to leave your child in that state because it's very upsetting to watch until it subsides and they go to sleep. So a lot of parents say, why are they caused or how do I avoid this? The number one cause for a night terror is sleep deprivation, usually going to bed too late. It could happen from traveling, time zone changes, or fevers, developmental milestones, and sleep apnea can all cause night terrors. There's also an increased likelihood for boys over girls. And also if you or the other parent had a history as a child of sleepwalking, then your child's going to be more likely to have night terrors. But the good news is the first thing to do is to start to put your child to bed earlier, even if it's just by 30 minutes. It can make all the difference in the world and they can usually stop having the night terrors altogether.

See Kim West, LCSW-C's video on How to help your kid through night terrors...


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Kim West, LCSW-C

Psychotherapist & Author, The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight

Kim West is a mother of two and a Licensed Certified Social Worker-Clinical (LCSW-C) who has been a practicing child and family social worker for more than 19 years. Known as The Sleep Lady by her clients, over the past 12 years she has helped thousands of tired parents all over the world learn to listen to their intuition, recognize their child’s important cues and behaviors, and gently create changes that promote and preserve his or her healthy sleep habits. 

West has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby  and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk,  Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post. West hosts the sleep section of The Newborn Channel, played in maternity wards in hospitals across the country. West is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy with Joanne Kenen. She is also the author of 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies and The Good Night, Sleep Tight Workbook.

Kim received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland.

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