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Night Terrors In Children

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

We have all had the experience of a bad dream, heart racing with sweat, and waking up a little confused. To experience this yourself isn’t nice, but to witness your child going through this and feeling helpless is a horrible experience for any parent.

To deal with this as effectively as possible it helps to understand what night terrors are, the possible causes, and how they can be prevented.

What is the Difference between Night Terrors and Nightmare?

Nightmares and night terrors happen at different stages of sleep. Nightmares occur later in the night, and night terrors occur in the early stages of sleep, which can be a good indicator of what your child is experiencing. Let’s look in more detail at how we can distinguish between the two.

Night terrors

Mainly affects children between 3 – 8 years of age. Their eyes may be open, but they are not awake. They may scream, cry, jump out of bed, or thrash out. The chances are they probably won't remember this as they are in such a deep sleep. Night terrors can be triggered by different things, including a fever, lack of sleep, or periods of stress and emotional tension.


Affecting adults and children of any age. Usually accompanied by a strong sense of fear. You may wake up and be able to remember them. Nightmares can be a result of many things including anxiety, bad sleep pattern, mental health, or medication.

What Should You Do if Your Child is Having a Night Terror?

As a parent, you will automatically want to help your child. The suggested advice is to stay close by and ensure they do not hurt themselves or fall. Even though it is very hard to see this, do not wake them. Attempts to do so may make them disorientated and confused, which as a result, can take them longer to settle back off to sleep. After the episode, it is safe to wake your child, but don’t be in a rush to put them back to sleep. Research has shown this can lead to them having another terror, a few moments to relax before going back to sleep will help.

Your child won’t remember the episode so there is no need to worry about any harmful effects. If they have several episodes, you may want to discuss the triggers with them as there may be something affecting their sleep, as mentioned above.

If they have a predictable time each night when this occurs, you may want to go into their room and wake them just enough to make them stir. This in turn may help reset their sleep cycle, bypassing their disruptive cycle. This is only suitable for those who are experiencing this frequently.

Should You Seek Help for Night Terrors?

Almost every child will have a nightmare, but only 3-6% of children will experience night terrors, with them occurring in boys slightly more than in girls. The whole episode may last between 10-15 minutes and is possible to have more than one episode per night. Sometimes they happen regularly for weeks or months, but this is rare. Usually, if a child were to have them, it may be one to two episodes a month.

If they become more frequent, routinely disrupt the sleep of the person with night terrors, or there are safety concerns, then you may wish to get help. If you are worried then see your GP, who may then recommend they have psychological treatment such as counselling if there has been a traumatic event.

What Else Can You Do to Help Your Baby or Young Child Sleep Better?

Forming good sleep habits and creating a safe and calm sleeping environment is hugely beneficial. A quiet, dark room at a slightly cool temperature is advisable. For babies and toddlers, a baby sleeping bag can help to keep your baby at a comfortable temperature, avoiding the need for blankets. Spending time together in your child’s bedroom reading or playing can all help to make them feel that it’s a safe and happy environment.

Can a Baby Sleeping Bag Help?

At BugBag we are very proud of the positive feedback on our baby and toddler sleeping bags. Parents reported their child slept better in our sleeping bags from day one. Our 0-6 month sleeping bags are sleeveless with an additional pop stud under the arms, creating a snug feel for those small newborns.

Once your baby gets a bit bigger, a baby sleeping bag with split legs is perfect for those wriggly babies 6 months plus. Giving the freedom of movement and space while still providing a warm and cosy bag.

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