Sleep disturbances

Expert advice on how to help your baby through a rough night

Q: Is it possible for an eight-month-old to have night terrors? My son wakes up about 90 minutes after falling asleep and screams, inconsolably, for about 30 minutes. Then he sleeps peacefully until morning. What can we do for him?

A: Night terrors are uncommon in infants; they usually begin around age two. Because your son is so young, I would definitely record an episode on video and show it to his doctor to get a better idea of what’s going on. Night terrors occur during REM sleep, about 90 minutes after children fall asleep, and can last anywhere from a few minutes to 40 minutes. They are different from nightmares and, fortunately, less common, occurring in about 15 percent of kids. During a night terror, children are very difficult to calm, often screaming inconsolably and thrashing about. It’s disturbing to watch, especially if your child has his eyes wide open but doesn’t recognize you, since he’s not really awake. But remarkably, children don’t seem to remember. The best thing to do when your son wakes up screaming like this is simply to keep him from hurting himself; don’t try to wake him up.

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