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Night Terrors – should I comfort her or not?

In the last two months or so M has been suffering night terrors – two or three a week, most weeks. Each frightening episode happens in the first two hours of sleep, starts with M whinging and progresses quickly to her becoming very distressed. She is always sitting upright in the bed, with her eyes open, calling out ‘mammy’ over and over, and is usually in a cold sweat. She doesn’t recognise me or even see me. I have always tried to comfort her (it’s hard not to) let her know she is safe and that ‘mammy’s here’ but I’m wondering if I am actually prolonging the horrible episodes and it would be better to just be there to ensure she’s safe?

The advice I have read on children’s health websites is mixed on comforting – comfort if you can, don’t comfort – but the following pointers have certainly helped prevent episodes in the last six or seven days
- I have kept her room cool with a fan and just dressed her in light 100% cotton PJs
– I have played soothing music for the first two hours of sleep to ease her transition into REM sleep
– I have been more selective with the bedtime stories (no evil stepmoms, bad fairies, poisoned apples, spinning wheels etc)
– I am putting her up to bed earlier

“Instead of trying to wake up a child having a night terror, it is usually better to just make sure he is safe, comfort him if you can, and help him return to sleep once it is over.” Vincent Iannelli, MD Pediatrics Guide


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