Has your child ever woken up kicking and screaming and refuses to be calmed by you? If they have, they were probably suffering from night terrors. The whole family is woken up and the whole episode can last from just a few minutes to 40 minutes! How to stop night terrors or at least minimize them is a question many parents are asking. We know that as many as 36 million children may experience these night terrors once a week.
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Night terrors in kids
These terrors are not nightmares because the child can remember that frightening experience when they wake up. It is essentially a terrifying and unpleasant dream. Night terrors are different in that the child will not remember anything about them the morning after but the rest of the family will!
According to one sleep expert, a night terror is where the child’s motor function remains intact while the brain is really only half awake and that is why they are not conscious at all of what is happening. It is also why it is pointless in trying to reassure or comfort them. It is in some ways similar to a temper tantrum.
“So what can happen sometimes is you sort of get into no man’s land where your brain waves are completely asleep, but your muscle function comes back so these kids are able to scream and cry and kick.”- Dr. Shalini Paruthi, paediatric sleep doctor.
What happens when night terrors occur?
First of all, it should be said that up to 6% of children between the ages of 3- 12 years tend to be the main group. Some experts say that 25% of kids in this age bracket may be having night terror attacks. Usually, they outgrow all these terrors after puberty.
What actually happens can be quite scary for anyone present. The child will shout and thrash about and it will be almost impossible to wake them up so they remain in their agitated half awake state. They may be sweating and breathing heavily and they may also start acting aggressively and running around the house.
“They’re looking at you. Their eyes are open. They’re screaming help me and it’s high-pitch terror. The first few times you’re terrified and you’re crying with them.”- Parent of child suffering from night terrors.
It is also useful not to mention the episode the morning after. Watch the video here to see what happens and how you can set up a regular bedtime routine which may help.
Night terror causes
Why do these terrible things happen to a child who is normally sleeping peacefully? We all go through different stages of sleep cycles. Usually there are 4 stages in these cycles. REM (rapid eye movement) and non REM (non rapid eye movement) are features and we move in and out of these phases during our sleep.
While the actual night terror causes are not fully understood, it is thought that some medications, fever, lack of sleep and stressful episodes may all be factors.
The critical phase is between stage 3 and 4 when the child falls into the stage of unhealthy deep sleep when night terrors can occur. This usually happens about 90 minutes after they fall asleep.
How to stop night terrors
Most experts say that the ideal way is to wake the child up as s/he moves into the critical stage of sleep. In fact they say that you have to note how much time passes after they fall asleep as there is a certain regularity. Then, when you know the crucial time, you wake the kid up and even get her out of bed and take them for a toilet break. If you do this routine for a week, then night terrors might be reduced.
There is also the constant worry that the child may be injured so you have to make the bedroom safe. You also have to ensure that there are no external disturbances.
Give me a break! There must be an easier way. There is!
A much better method to stop night terrors
Fortunately a physician, Dr. Rink and an engineer, Varun Boriah at Stanford University have invented a device to help tired parents. Dr. Rink knew all abut night terrors as his sister suffered from them and disturbed the neighbors so much that they threatened to call the police!
Basically, they have developed a vibrating white pod and app. It takes cares of gently moving the child into a more restful and healthy sleep before the critical moment when a night terror might strike. The device is called the Lully Sleep Guardian. They tried it out with 150 children when trialling it for over 10,000 nights. They found that they were getting a 90% reduction in their night terrors overall.
Here is how this works:-
- The inventors have come up with a system which links to your iPhone or iPad. All you have to do is to enter some data about your child’s sleep pattern. You have already placed the pod (about the size of a hockey puck) under the child’s mattress and you are all set to go.
- The device is learning your child’s sleep patterns and tells you when it’s time to turn it on. You just have to answer 4 questions to set it up.
- Once it is set, it will gently vibrate (only once a night) to move the child from the risky phase to a healthier one- all without disturbing their sleep!
- Imagine not having to wake them up! Within a week most parents see results and results show that after a month, night terrors are reduced by 80%.
Watch the video here to see it in action
The product is already helping thousands of families. You can watch the Power Pitch here where the inventor’s product got the thumbs up from all three judges.
Photo courtesy of Steven and Courtney Johnson via Flicker