Monday, April 22, 2019
*Thank you so much to Dr. Hart for gifting us their weighted blanket for this post!

Night terrors. WOAH. What is UP with those?! Our oldest, Hunter started getting night terrors around 18 months and at the time, we had no clue what they were. Does your child have them too? About 3% of children ages 4-12 have them, they are most common in boys and are 80% more common in families that have a family member with a sleeping disorder like sleepwalking.

If you've searched about this and my post has popped up for you, than you know that they are absolutely terrifying to watch as a parent because there's nothing you can really do to help them while they're having them. 

I've put together some information on what a night terror is, what's the difference between a night terror vs. a nightmare and how we try to keep them at bay. Let me know in the comments what has helped you and your little one!


According to, a night terror is "a partial arousal from sleep where a child may shout, thrash about, kick, or scream as if in intense panic." Does that sound about right for you guys? Hunter would scream in his bedroom, or walk into our bedroom, and just brawl out. I'm talking right hooks, kicking - the whole street fight, happening right in our bed. Sometimes he would even have his eyes wide open, but he was completely unaware of us or his surroundings.


The difference between a night terror and a nightmare, is that they can normally recall a nightmare but with a night terror, there is no recollection once they've awoken from it. Nightmares usually occur during the REM cycle which is when you usually start dreaming while a night terror usually happens before during the transition of a non-REM cycle to a light REM cycle. It's almost like a reaction to the transition of it. We did notice that most of Hunter's night terrors started about three hours after he went to sleep which makes sense as that's about when the transition starts.


Just a quick note that this is what we do and have found to work but I always recommend checking in with your doctor before trying anything. 

  1. Cutting out processed sugar/sugar curfew. This one is tough because let's be real, there's processed sugar in just about everything. I noticed when Hunter would have candy or cake or something with a lot of processed sugar in it, it was almost like clockwork that he'd have a night terror that night. Like, 9 times out of 10. We found that removing processed sugar from his diet worked well but around holidays especially, wasn't incredibly realistic because well, we're human. We have cake and cookies and he'll probably have one. When we're coming up on a holiday or birthday, we set a "sugar curfew" so there's no sugar to be had after noon. We found that that works for us and almost allows him to "work out the sugar" before bedtime.
  2. No scary movies. Okay, so he's only four so this is kind of a "duh" one but a four year old's version of "scary" is completely different than an adults which some may not really realize (myself, for sure, included) So for Hunter, Super Monsters? Not scary. Monster House? Scary. Goosebumps? Not scary (go figure). I guess what I'm recommending is to just watch what your child is watching as that can always contribute to night terrors (and nightmares).
  3. Chill out. Stress is a big factor in night terrors. If they've had a rough day, no nap; it can all contribute to it. We like to wind down with bedtime stories or a bath before bed time but just being in a quiet area to decompress is perfect. Believe me, bed time can be a war zone so I get how hard it can be but even just reading a quick story before bed can do wonders. 
  4. Dr. Hart's Weighted Blanket.  I did a lot of research on weighted blankets before finally finding one that works. Weighted blankets are pretty much what they sound like: a weighted blanket, usually around 2-5 pounds, that you go to sleep with. The weighted blanket weight should be about 10% of your body weight. Research shows that a weighted blanket provides DPT (deep pressure touch) to the touch receptors on your body, allowing your body to release serotonin (a chemical naturally produced in your body that makes you feel good and calms anxiety) which in turn helps produce melatonin which is the chemical that helps us go to sleep. Bottom line: A weighted blanket helps produce melatonin which in turn, keeps your child asleep through the transition to the REM cycle. We absolutely love this one by Dr. Hart! Dr. Hart is a neurologist and retired U.S. Army Medical Corps Officer who would use Deep Tissue Pressure Stimulation to help soldiers suffering from PTSD and wanted a way to help the public dealing with these issues.
  5. Keep it cool. I've read in the past that heat can contribute to night terrors and studies show that people sleep better in cooler temperatures.We keep the boy's room at a cool 62 degrees, with a fan on, just in case. We keep Hunter's clothes light and fitted. I've read some people recommend not to put their children who have night terrors in footie jammies but we haven't had issues with those. 

I'm not a doctor, guys, so take this advice like you're taking it from a friend. Everyone's child is different and different things work for them. I recommend researching night terrors, taking a step back and checking out your child's schedule. Look at different patterns (for us it was processed sugar) and go from there.