An expert weighs in on sleep terrors and children.

An expert weighs in on sleep terrors and children. Credit: iStock

Q. My daughter is 8, and twice in the past two months she had what we believe was a night terror. She fell asleep in our room, and when my husband carried her to her bed she sat up and seemed trapped in a nightmare. Her eyes were open but unfocused. She talked about things that didn't make sense and opened her mouth as if screaming. I started describing fun things to do and kept telling her to put her head down and after a time she fell back asleep. She didn't remember anything the next day. Should we be concerned?

A. What you are describing sounds like a sleep terror, says Dr. Dmitriy Vaysman, director of pediatric pulmonology and sleep medicine at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. It is scary to the observer -- the child is agitated, yells and can't be roused.

Your instinct was good -- Vaysman advises talking gently to settle her. "Within a few minutes the child falls back asleep," Vaysman says.

The episode may have been triggered by your husband carrying your daughter to her bedroom, Vaysman says -- sleep terrors usually occur in the first half of the night and can be set off by an interruption in the sleep cycle. It's typical for the child to remember nothing the following day.

Sleep terrors usually resolve as the child ages. If they are excessive, you may want to have a sleep study done to eliminate sleep or seizure disorders, he says.

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