Getting rid of the terrors at night

Question: You know what's worse than having a nightmare?  
Answer: Waking up to one... 



My daughter and favorite student (and, as a natural extension, the rest my family) have done our best to manage this sort of thing since my daughter was very very young - an (almost) waking nightmare for everyone involved and including her. 

Imagine, if you will, blissfully sleeping and being woken up by your child doing something like this:
That, my friends, was a video of what is called either a night terror or a sleep terror
It's something that has plagued my daughter from her most tender years of early childhood and it used to happen at least once a night and sometimes multiple times a night. Thankfully, in the past three years, there has been a drastic reduction in how often we are all forced to contend with them. 
After a lot of research and diligent commitment to finding a workable solution to combat them, all of these things are how we were able to help minimize the likelihood that they would happen and almost stop them from happening all together. All told, these things took over five years to happen...

The biggest and most important thing we did was this (this might not apply to your situation):

After we started doing the previous, we did these other things:
  • We reduced the way "screen time" was used and modified the schedule in order to help allow focus and attention to decompress itself. This is a fancy way of saying that we started a bedtime routine that included NOT running screen time usage closer to bedtime routines.
  • We changed bedtime clothing wardrobe options as well as bedding so that everything used was only breathable fabrics. In the midst of the night terrors, we discovered that my daughter was drenched with sweat and her body temperature was unreasonably high. By ensuring that she wouldn't overheat, she seemed less likely to have night terrors.
  • We kept ice cold water (in either a drinkable vessel OR as compresses) nearby if/when my daughter would be on the verge of the night terror. We did our best to observe and time when they would start presenting and then we would try and get her to either drink the water OR we would apply the compresses to the back of her neck OR to her forehead. This helped us to wake her "system" up (and cool it down from overheating) but because of how the sleep cycle works, she would be able to comfortably go back to sleep.
  • We created movement of air in her sleeping space both with fans (yes, more than one at times) to help keep her cool at night. The white noise of the fans also helped her to sleep more peacefully. 
  • We minimized and attended to her many fears and anxieties (both legitimate and irrational) by having conversations with her regularly (at dinner time as much as other times). We did this with the help of child psychologists as well as by just spending good quality time together. Our conversations were very specifically directed by her and nothing was off the table for us to discuss. We talked about things in very kid-friendly ways as steered by the many family support professionals we partnered with.

Dealing with night terrors has required a real process of figuring things out in real time. We based all of our solutions that we found to actually work and not just once but be consistent and actually make things better over time. 

Being rid of night terror didn't require anything special, "magic," or inaccessible to most anybody. It was exhausting (both metaphorically and actually) for all of us to deal with. There were lots of actual lost nights of sleep. Still, I'm happy to report and SHARE what has worked for us and continues to work for us. Hopefully, if you are dealing with night terrors too, what we shared can help you and yours.

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