5 Things We’ve Learned About Night Terrors

Published by Lydia Richmond on

Have a child suffering from night terrors? Sometimes it really helps to hear others’ stories and experiences. Join Jessica from A Modern Mom’s Life as she shares what she’s learned from her oldest daughter’s night terrors!

guest genius iconMy older daughter experienced night terrors.  We had no idea what was going on with her, and it was scary for us!

I thought I’d share a few things we learned while dealing with Emma and her night terrors.

night terrors guest post

  1. Night terrors are distinctly different from nightmares.  Emma would sit up quickly, exclaim loudly (sometimes screaming or crying) and be completely unresponsive.  She would then just lay down and be asleep.  It’s really freaky, especially when it happens the first time!
  2. Having a child be completely unresponsive, especially at night, is a heart-stopper for anxious moms (or Dads, or other caregivers)! I don’t know how many times I went in to see her knowing she was having these terrors and felt so completely helpless.  I would hug this stiff-as-a-board little girl while she cried or carried on — or sometimes just gestured wildly — and would just get absolutely no response.  Eventually she would relax and just be completely asleep.  It was mind-boggling for me.  I did finally manage to acknowledge there was nothing I could do, but while it didn’t really make me feel better, it did allow me to go back to sleep myself after tucking her back in.
  3. Being over-tired made them worse.  If Emma had a really drawn-out bedtime (which she always had, so I mean an extra-long “drawn-out-for-at-least-an-hour” bedtime) there was a greater chance she’d wake with a terror.  Same deal if the day was really busy or she didn’t nap (which she never did for me anyway…)
  4. They will almost always happen just after you fall asleep.  Most of the literature about night terrors suggests they happen 2 to 3 hours after the kid falls asleep.  For most households that’s likely the time parents are getting into bed and falling asleep themselves.  Of course.
  5. Kids grow out of them.  Our daughter didn’t really start with them until after our second was born.  Correlation?  No idea. Emma would have been approaching 3 and a half.  Most things I’ve read suggest kids between 4 and 12 can have them. Emma is now 8 and hasn’t had one in a long while (a year or more.)

Strangely, Rose, our second born, has never had a night terror — although Murphy’s Law dictates it will happen now that I’ve said that.  Rose has also always been a good sleeper who had no problem taking naps and going to bed when tired.  I suspect that could be part of the reason.  She also had no problem sleeping through Emma’s carrying-on back when she was afflicted with these night terrors.

We didn’t actually have Emma checked out and diagnosed with night terrors, but Dr. Google and Dr. Mom agreed that that was definitely what was going on with her some nights.  She didn’t remember any of the episodes she had so much so that she would argue with me at the breakfast table that she never woke up once (which I guess she technically never did)!

If you think you’re experiencing night terrors with your little one: take heart!  They will pass, and they aren’t dangerous (unless your child is prone to falling out of bed which did happen at least once here)!  They’re scary but more for the parents than the child.

Read up on them online like I did, and maybe understanding what they are will give you some measure of reassurance.

Please share your experiences in the comments, and if there are any other helpful tidbits I didn’t touch on, share those too!  But remember, nothing can replace the advice of a physician when diagnosing anything anywhere ever.


Jessica (from A Modern Mom’s Life) focuses on her busy working mom life, learning about blogging (and trying to fit in into her busy lifestyle) and parenting 2 elementary school aged daughters.

You can visit Jessica on her social media channels: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+


2 Comments

Pam · January 25, 2017 at 1:03 pm

So scary! My daughter started having night terrors right after my son was born–like you, I don’t know if there’s a connection–but it’s interesting to note this was your experience as well. I’ve read that stress of any sort can make them worse.

My kids are grown now, but I still remember the anxiety those terrors caused for all of us. It’s a hard stage to work through.

Rabia @ The Liebers · January 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

I have two bedwetters and a sleep walker. My sleep walker has had a few night terrors. What’s been worse were the nights he got up and unlocked the front door. Thankfully we heard him and he hadn’t undone the chain!

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