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Night terrors in children can be frightening, but with a little planning you can prevent and treat them fast

If you’re the parent of a child who suffers night terrors you’ll know just how frightening an episode can look. Fortunately there are sleep habits you can help your child form to reduce the risk.

By Rebel Wylie

Did you know that night terrors - a sleep disorder that sees someone awake abruptly with fear during the first few hours of sleep at night - affect 5 in every 100 children between the ages of 18 months to six years old?

Different to nightmares, a night terror episode can last anywhere from a few minutes to almost an hour, and when it's over, your still half-asleep child may abruptly fall back to sleep with no memory of the incident, not even realising that they woke up for that brief, yet terrifying moment.

As opposed to nightmares, night terrors are forgotten by the child because they occur during the transitional period between deep non-REM sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. They are caused by over-arousal of the central nervous system.

What do I do if my child is having a night terror?

They can be very distressing to watch, as your child may seem extremely disturbed and upset, however your child will have no recollection of the night terror, so the best way to deal with an episode as a witness, is to ensure the child is safe and then allow them to ride it out. Because your child is not fully awake there is no real way to console them during an episode anyway.

The disruption a night terror causes for a child may lead to further stress, which is a catalyst for continual night terrors, so if your child has had an episode already there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of an attack occurring again.

If you're the parent of a child who suffers night terrors you'll know just how frightening an episode can look.
If you're the parent of a child who suffers night terrors you'll know just how frightening an episode can look.

Glow Dreaming founders,, Cara and Aloni have shared their top tips to help break/ reduce night terrors.

1. Stability and routine

"Children work best with structure in their lives. Routine helps them develop confidence, makes them feel secure and safe. Bed time rituals and stability are key ingredients for success. They will learn behavioural patterns that will make going to bed less of a chore. Regardless of age, bedtime rituals help children get the necessary sleep needed to function at their peak."

2. Get to Bed Before They’re Too Sleepy

"Monitor children's tiredness so that they will wind down, naturally. We recommend initiating children's bedtime routine before seeing signs of tiredness which will give you precious moments with your child to read, cuddle and relax together without having to rush through the process."

3. Narrate the Evening

"Allow your child plenty of time to process and prepare for sleep removes any chance for surprises or unexpected feelings of anxiety. Reinforce structure and expectations with repetition of the phrase: 'Our rule is that kids are in bed by 6:30 each evening' and be consistent with it.
The count-down is ON!"

4. Hand over the control

"Empower your children so that they feel in charge of their bedtime. Get them mentally prepared for bed and help them wind down by encouraging them to select the stories they would like to read before bed, pyjamas they would like to wear and toys they would like to sleep next to."

5. And … exhale

"It's never too early to introduce your child to simple meditation and breathing techniques, designed to help settle children. These breathing, interactive exercise can be made fun by asking the little ones to place their hands on their belly and imagine blowing up a balloon and then deflating it as they exhale."

Designed for bubs aged from 8 weeks old + to the elderly, Glow Dreaming (RRP $130) combines four different elements: Red LED light (the same technology NASA uses at their space station to induce the body's natural melatonin), a humidifier, a special sound frequency based on pink noise and organic medicinal grade essential oils.