Treatments

The good news is there's hope:

It may seem like there is nothing you can do about your child’s night terrors. But don’t worry, from scheduled awakenings and lifestyle changes to home remedies, there are ways to make the situation better. Here’s what you need to know to reduce your child’s night terrors:

1) Scheduled awakenings may help some families

The gist of scheduled awakenings is that you wake your child 15-30 minutes before their night terrors typically occur. This interrupts their sleep cycle so that the night terror never has a chance to get off and running. Starting back in 1988, clinical studies have shown that this method has a whopping 90% success rate of reducing night terrors.

So what’s the fine print? Well, this treatment can be tricky to get just right. Timing when to wake up your child requires some math (based on their history of night terrors) and an understanding of sleep cycles. Plus, some parents take the “awakening” part a little too far and wind up with a wide-awake child in the middle of the night.

2) The Lully Sleep Guardian stops night terrors

The challenges with scheduled awakenings are addressed with the Lully Sleep Guardian, which uses a special algorithm to learn about your child’s sleep patterns and calculate awakening times. It also gently vibrates each night (emphasis on the gently) so that your child’s night terror is prevented but their sleep isn’t totally disturbed. Reviews on amazon seem to show that it works for many families.

3) Home remedies are unproven

While their effectiveness is not proven, some home remedies that promote relaxation may help to improve certain cases of night terrors. Think: sugarless chamomile tea, the scent of lavender essential oil, and other herbal treatments.

4) Medications are a last resort

Since night terrors usually do not directly harm the children experiencing them, doctors will only prescribe medication in extreme situations where the night terrors are very frequent or endangering the child. (For example, if the child is walking around and at risk of hurting himself.) That’s because medication for night terrors (xanax or antidepressants, to name a few) is used as a sedative to sink children so far into sleep that they skip the night terrors altogether. As you can imagine, many parents would prefer to avoid the possible side effects that come with this kind of sleep. It’s why medication for children with night terrors is always a “last resort” scenario when other treatments fail to work.

5) Related medical tests and surgical treatment

When it comes to night terrors, your child’s doctor may go for a “leave no stone unturned” approach. Certain tests can rule out other medical conditions that might be triggering your child’s night terrors. In many cases, surgically treating sleep apnea or another related medical issue may also treat night terrors. Of course, no one wants their child to have surgery without a really good reason. You and your pediatrician would need to agree that the related medical issue is something that needs to be addressed. The possible night terror treatment would be more like icing on the cake than the reason for the surgery.

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