Getting kids to sleep soundly is one of the most exhausting challenges of parenthood. Luckily for parents, Cloud b is on a mission to help through all stages of development. Our Q&A series offers expert recommendations to help solve your real family sleep issues – typically, issues most parents have to navigate. Here’s our latest about sleepwalking and night terrors.
Jessica posed this question for us on Facebook:
“What should I do about my 6-year-old sleepwalker who also suffers from night terrors? Hannah has seen a doctor they diagnosed her with sleep terrors – told us to wake her 2 hours after sleep to break her sleep cycle and she’ll eventually outgrow it. Breaking her cycle helps from time to time, other times it throws her into a moment and other times it doesn’t help. She can open doors when she sleep walks. I fear for her safety both sleepwalking and sleep terrors since she hits and scratches her self when she’s having a sleep terror. She doesn’t eat before bed, she doesn’t consume sugar, nor red dye. She goes to bed at 8 never over tired or over stimulated we do calming activities before bed. Every time we think we’ve figured out a solution after about a week free she starts up again.
Thank you everyone for your time, advice, and kind words.”
Moms from our Facebook community had the following advice:
Jeanette: Get her on a good sleep schedule. Maybe try melatonin to help get her to bed earlier. I’ve heard both can be related to not enough sleep. I probably wouldn’t use locks on the doors but would put baby gates with closed doors (bedroom doors should always be closed at night in case of fire). Good luck.
Kayla: Like others said watch diet and try the chiropractor. I would check essential oils and see if they have a protocol.
Susan: My son had night terrors when he was young and I bought him a dream catcher. I told him the story and how it would catch all his bad dreams. The night terrors got alot better and if he did have one he told me it was because it was full. I would take it outside and swing it over my head to let the dreams out ( didn’t want to let them loose in the house). He would go back to peaceful nights.
Jenna: Most sleep problems I have seen are bathroom related (from my kids and as a cub scout leader) I just take the sleepwalker to the bathroom and they almost always just pee and go back to sleep. Once you know they are a sleepwalker, limit their water and make sure they “go” before bed.
Kelly: Consistent bedtime routine (avoiding triggers – falling asleep in the car is one for my son). As for essential oils – absolutely help!!! DoTerra Serenity oil has virtually eliminated night terrors in my house. For my sleepwalker, we just gated the stairs and kept a baby monitor in her room until she outgrew it. If we heard her get up, we just directed her back to bed.
And, here’s what expert Kim West, The Sleep Lady, had to say:
When a child is experiencing a night terror she may scream and appear anxious. There may also be sweating and/or a racing heart beat. The child is often inconsolable. The terror usually lasts between five and fifteen minutes and then subsides. These incidents are often more upsetting for the parent than they are for the child, as children do not usually remember them. Night terrors occur during NON-REM sleep (the period of coming out of deep sleep), and usually within two hours of going to sleep. Night terrors are not bad dreams. They do NOT occur during dream sleep. They are not a sign of a psychological problem. Night terrors can also occur during a developmental milestone.
Your child is more likely to have night terrors if either parent had them as a child, or if either parent had a partial arousal sleep disorder such as sleepwalking. There are other causes for night terrors, too. The most common cause is sleep deprivation or a disturbance in a child’s sleep patterns. Stress that causes big changes in their sleep schedule (like traveling to a different time zone, sleep apnea, or fever) can also be contributing factors.
What you can do:
If your child is having a night terror, monitor the child but avoid interfering, as this can worsen the episode.
Make sure your child is physically safe during the night terror.
Put your child to bed earlier – even if by only 30 minutes.
Keep a regular sleep schedule for him.
Don’t talk about the terror with your child in the morning.
If your child is having night terrors two to three times a week at set times during the night (i.e. 2 hours after going to sleep) do the following:
Keep a sleep log.
Plan on the episodes taking at least 7-10 days to diminish.
Wake your child 15 minutes prior to the time he usually has an episode to the point where he mumbles, moves, or rolls over.
Do this every night for 7-10 nights in a row.
In regards to the sleep walking, typically these episodes are less than 30 minutes. Similar to night terrors, trying to awaken your child can worsen the situation. The best thing to do is gently guide your child back to bed. Before bedtime, be sure to clean up floors, put up gates at stairways, and lock windows and doors. It’s vital to create a safe environment, so your child won’t hurt herself.
Keeping a calm presence of mind and using a reassuring voice can make a huge difference in these middle-of- the-night episodes for both you and your child. Remember to reassure your child as needed, showing love and respect for these normal experiences. I wish you and your family many sweet dreams!
We hope this advice helps, Jessica! Let us know how it goes.
Have advice for Jessica? Share it in the comments! Also, if you want help with your family’s sleep issues, let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to answer them in future blog posts.
Sleep. Be healthy. Be happy!
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About The Sleep Lady:
Kim West is a mother of two teenage girls and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for twenty years. Known as The Sleep Lady® by her clients, over the past sixteen years she has helped tens of thousands of tired parents all over the world learn to listen to their intuition, recognize their child’s important cues and behaviors, and gently create changes that promote and preserve his or her healthy sleep habits.
West has appeared on the Dr. Phil, Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, TLC’s Bringing Home Baby and CNN, and has been written about in a number of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Baby Talk, Parenting, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, The Telegraph, The Irish Independent and the Washington Post. West hosts the sleep section of The Newborn Channel, played in maternity wards in hospitals across the country.
West has spoken to numerous parenting groups across the country about the importance of children’s sleep and how to gently teach your child to go to sleep and sleep through the night.
West is the author of The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight: Gentle Proven Solutions to Help Your Child Sleep Well and Wake Up Happy with Joanne Kenen. She is also the author of 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies (2008) and The Good Night, Sleep Tight WORKBOOK (2010). Both published by Easton Studio Press.
Kim West received her master’s degree in Clinical Social Work from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. She lives with her family in Annapolis, Maryland. Visit her website at www.sleeplady.com