Sleep Terrors Treatment & Management

Updated: Mar 14, 2019
  • Author: Eve G Spratt, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Approach Considerations

In view of the benign and self-limited nature of sleep terrors, most affected individuals require no specific medical intervention other than reassurance, establishing environmental safety, and education.

The use of scheduled awakenings has been suggested as a possible means of reducing sleep terror occurrences. [26] This involves noting what time the episodes usually occur for five nights in a row, then waking the child up 10 to 15 minutes before that time, keeping the child awake for 4 to 5 minutes, then allowing the child to resume sleep. [27]

During episodes, efforts should be made to keep affected individuals from harming themselves or others. These efforts can be supported by removing hazardous objects from the sleep area, securing windows, and impeding exit from the sleep area. Affected children are typically resistant to interference in the midst of a sleep terror event, but patient surveillance to avert injury as permitted may be all that is required.

When the episode has terminated, parents should assist the child back to bed. Discussion of the event immediately or the following day is usually not helpful, because the experience either is not remembered or is only vaguely recalled.Associated comorbid conditions, particularly sleep breathing disorders, should be appropriately treated; this may or may not affect the frequency of sleep terrors. [8] General efforts to promote a stable environment with adequate regular sleep habits are encouraged but may not alter the occurrence of sleep terrors.

Hypnosis has proven to be effective in some children. [2, 7]


Long-Term Monitoring

Routine follow-up and developmental assessment are indicated for all children, including those affected by sleep terrors.

Continued support and reassurance can be helpful for affected families. Surveillance for deviation from classic sleep terror characteristics or increasing severity of behavior during episodes may prompt reconsideration of the diagnosis or increased protective interventions.