Night Terrors - Treatment For Adults And Children
Night terrors in children usually disappear with adolescence, so standard medical treatment is not necessary.
In most cases, the only thing that helps is consoling the child, reassuring them that there is nothing to panic.
Treatment usually involves trying to avoid letting the child get over-tired, and trying to keep the wake/sleep schedule as regular as possible. When an incident does occur, do not try to wake the child -- not because it is dangerous, but because it will tend to prolong the event.
It is generally best not to hold or restrain the child, since her subjective experience is one of being held or restrained; she would likely arch her back and struggle all the more. Instead, try to relax and to orally comfort the child if possible. Speak slowly, relaxingly, and repetitively.
Turning on the lights may also be calming. Protect your child from injury by moving furniture and standing between him or her and windows. In most cases the event will be over in a matter of minutes.
Developing a nightly bedtime routine is also one of the most effective treatments for this disorder. The doctor may advise the parents to adjust the sleep habits of the child to allow for more sleep time, and eliminate stresses in the child's life.
Additionally, the parents should determine when the night terrors usually occur and fully awaken the child about 15 minutes before that time. After 4 or 5 minutes, the child can return to sleep. The waking is discontinued once the terrors stop, which in most circumstances is usually within a week.
Night terrors in adults can be treated with medications such as an antidepressant called Tofranil or benzodiazepine drugs such as Klonopin or Valium. Additionally, the doctor may recommend psychotherapy, which is a method of treating emotional problems.
In psychotherapy, the patient talks with a therapist about their concerns and problems that may be linked to this sleep disturbance.
How To Treat the Child Who is Having A Night Terror
1. Help the child go back to sleep.
Do not try to awaken your child. Turn on the lights so that your child is less confused by shadows. Remain calm, talk in a soothing tone. You can try holding his hand or snuggling him, but if he pulls away don't persist. Shaking or shouting at your child may cause the child to become more upset.
2. Protect the child from getting hurt.
Protect your child against injury. Keep you child away from stairs, windows or sharp objects. Try to gently direct him back to bed.
3. Educate your caregivers.
Be sure to warn babysitters, family members, or others who might be caring for the child at night. Explain to them what to do in case of an attack, so that they don't overreact.
Can night terrors be prevented?
Following the healthy schedule can prevent night terrors
- Establish a regular routine and stick to it every night. A regular routine can make all the difference in kids with sleep disorders.
- The bedroom should be free from disturbing stimuli like a loud radio, a television, toy, or other loud noises.
- The bedroom should be dimly lit, comfortable and conducive to get a good night's sleep.
- The child should sleep in the same room every night, tucked into the same bed. If the parents share custody, they should cooperate with one another so that the child's sleeping routine is much the same.
- A warm bath just before bed is a relaxing and pleasant sleep-inducing addition to any child's daily or rather nightly routine.
- For several nights, keep record of the time between falling asleep and the onset of the night terror. Then, wake him up 15 minutes prior to the expected time of the incident, get your child out of bed and fully awake for 5 minutes. Do this for seven successive nights. If the night terrors return, repeat the seven nights of awakenings.
When to consult the physician:
While night terrors are not damaging, they can resemble other conditions or lead to problems for the child. Consult your physician if you notice any of the following:
- The child is drooling, jerking, or stiffening
- Terrors last longer than 30 minutes
- Terrors happen after the seven nights of waking
- The child does something dangerous during an episode
- Terrors are happening during the second half of the night
- The child has daytime fears
- You feel family stress may be a factor