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#AskAlyson: What To Do About Night Terrors?

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Dear Alyson, 

My daughter has terrible nightmares and often wakes up screaming. This can happen several times a week. It’s horrifying for us to see her so upset and scared. She has glazed eyes and it’s almost looks like she is in a trance. When it’s finally over, she can’t even tell us what she was dreaming about! How can we help her? 


Concerned Mom


Dear Concerned Mom,


From what you have described, your daughter is probably not having nightmares, but rather something called “night terrors”. Night terrors usually happen earlier in the evening (before midnight), rather than nightmares that tend to happen later at night (say 2 or 3 am). Nightmares can be recalled by the child when they awaken from the dream, while night terrors cannot. Since the child has no recollection of being upset or scared, it’s actually more traumatic for the parent!


My best advice would be to not wake the child, just your gentle presence is helpful enough. Make sure they are safe from harm if they are running or thrashing. Know that these events don’t usually last very long, they’re typically between 10 – 30 min. There is no need to consult a doctor unless you are noticing other symptoms – for example drooling or stiffness – or if its causing you great distress and interfering with the family’s sleep. Overly tired children are more prone to these night terrors, so be vigilant about getting kids to bed early and on time!


Hope that this helps!


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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3 Responses to “#AskAlyson: What To Do About Night Terrors?”

  1. Kim

    My daughter has night terrors if she has any kind of MSG or ‘flavour enhancer’so check her diet on the days this happens and see if there is a pattern.

    • Alyson Schafer

      We are learning more and more about how the foods and additives we eat interact with our brains/moods/behaviour!

  2. Lisa Petsinis

    My daughter had night terrors as a toddler (her father had them also and apparently it can be inherited). I used homeopathy (which helped!) and I stopped getting freaked out by it. I would just go and sit with her without intervening.


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