Understanding Night Terrors in Infants

As a new parent, there is nothing more frightening than hearing your baby scream and cry out of nowhere in the middle of the night. It can leave you feeling helpless and confused - especially when it seems like they are still asleep while it's happening. These episodes are known as night terrors.

Understanding Night Terrors in Infants

But fear not! In this article, we will be diving deep into what causes night terrors in infants, how to identify them and most importantly - how to survive them without losing your mind.

What Are Night Terrors?

First things first: let's clarify what exactly we mean when we say 'night terrors'. Unlike nightmares which occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, night terrors happen during non-REM sleep. This means that your little one is technically still sleeping even though they might seem fully awake.

During a night terror episode, your baby may suddenly start crying or screaming uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Their heart rate may be increased and their breathing could become heavy or laboured. They might even thrash around wildly or kick their legs up in the air (try dodging those ninja kicks at 3 AM)!

What makes these episodes so scary for parents is that unlike regular crying or fussing; babies who experience night terrors appear inconsolable - they don't respond to soothing words, attempts to rock them back to sleep or feeding.

Who Gets Affected?

Nightmares can happen at any age but according to research findings published by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), sleep-related disorders including recurrent isolated nocturnal events such as confusional arousals and rhythmic movement disorder often peak between ages 6 months–3 years.

Why Do Night Terrors Happen?

The exact cause of why some babies develop night terrors aren't totally understood just yet (we promise these kids will remain an enigma for years to come). However, here are some factors that have been linked with night terrors:


Sleep deprivation or over-tiredness in babies can set off events like night terrors. Although it sounds counterintuitive, the more rest your baby gets during the day, the better they'll sleep at night.

Sleep Environment

Sometimes even small changes in a child's sleeping environment such as a new place where the baby sleeps (i.e., going on vacation) could trigger these episodes.


There seems to be a family tendency when it comes to sleep disturbances and disorders; meaning that night terrors may be inherited from parents who've experienced them themselves or were prone to anxiety (thanks mom and dad).

How To Identify Night Terrors?

Now that you know what causes these interesting phenomena let's go into how you can spot if your wee one is having one:

Behaviours On Display

  • A sudden episode of crying/screaming unresponsive behaviour
  • Fearful reactions including sweating/panting The best thing parents can do is try not to wake their child during an episode because this will only make things worse.

One of the key differences between nightmares and nigh terror episodes involves physical behaviours/characteristics within each type we provided above.

How To Get Through Them & Want Relief?

Night terror episodes typically last anywhere between 10 - 20 minutes before disappearing just as suddenly as they arrived (just enough time for parents' heart rates return back down too!)

Although It may seem hard but staying composed while observing your little ones exertions/agitation (unfortunately yes), rubbing their backs gently or singing softly might soothe them through a difficult moment,. Keep in mind however, nighttime routines such as bath-time/storytime also play crucial roles depending on situations relevant.

In the end, Night terrors in infants can be scary but they aren't harmful or life-threatening - forging a name for themselves as relatively benign experiences. Having make modelled pros/cons list of solutions at the ready will not only make the experience easier to manage when next it occurs, but provide piece-of-mind knowing you know what's going on and how it affects your baby.

Sleep is key so always remember to prioritise your sanity and sleep!

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *